LACONIA — State Rep. Michael Sylvia asked a judge in Belknap Superior Court on Wednesday to dismiss the case that has been brought against him by the town of Belmont, which alleges he is living on his property in violation of town and state regulations.
Sylvia, who is acting as his own attorney, argued that the Superior Court has no jurisdiction over such cases and that the town has failed to specify exactly what town ordinances and regulations he has violated.
With more than a dozen of his supporters looking on, Sylvia said, “The town has not advised me what statute to which I am in violation of.”
Belmont attorney Laura Spector-Morgan objected to Sylvia’s motion, telling Judge James D. O’Neill III that state law allows such cases to be brought in either district or superior courts, and that the town’s civil suit spells out which laws and ordinances the town alleges Sylvia has violated.
The town claims that for seven years Sylvia has been living in a camper van-type recreational vehicle for which he has not obtained a town permit for it to be on the property at 216 Farrarville Road, and that he also lives in a converted garage for which he obtained no building permit to make the alterations. The town also says that there is no record of a working septic system on the property.
The town is asking the court to bar Sylvia from living on the property until he complies with the necessary state and town rules and regulations.
Sylvia argued the town has no hard evidence that he actually lives on the property. He also said that the town “did not state what the problems (on his property) was so I could fix it.” He also said the claims cited in the town’s complaint against him are false.
Spector-Morgan attempted to call Sylvia as a witness so she could ask him under oath whether he lived at the property or not. But O’Neill overruled that request after Sylvia objected to being put on the witness stand.
Under questioning by Sylvia, Belmont Code Enforcement Officer Steve Paquin said there is ample evidence that Sylvia has been living in the RV. Smoke coming from the chimney and shoveled paths to the front door are credible evidence that Sylvia lives in the converted garage during the winter, he said. He said the amount of time Sylvia’s car is in the driveway is further evidence that the state representative lives there.
Paquin also testified that, despite repeated requests from the town, Sylvia has never met with Paquin to discuss the matter.
Asked by Sylvia whether any member of the public had complained to the town about his property, Paquin said no one had. Paquin said when he was hired in 2012, selectmen told him that Sylvia’s property was one that was in violation of town regulations. Paquin sent the first letter to Sylvia about the matter in August 2017, explaining that he first dealt with the more serious violations.
Sylvia told the court the town’s suit is a violation of his constitutional rights to use and enjoy his property. “When a statute is in conflict with the Constitution, the Constitution is the absolute law,” he argued.
He also asserted, “Selective prosecution of zoning ordinance violations is an ongoing problem (in Belmont),” adding: “There is a political nature to the pursuit of zoning violations.”
Spector-Morgan said after the hearing had concluded that Sylvia told her prior to going into court that he has leased an apartment, but would not confirm to her whether is was living there. Sylvia declined to speak to a reporter outside the courtroom.
O’Neill took Wednesday’s arguments and the motions filed by each side under advisement. He gave no indication when he would issue his ruling.