BY DONNA ALLEN
The Vermont Journal
CHESTER, Vt. – In starting the Wednesday, June 8, 2016 Chester Select Board meeting Chair John DeBenedetti announced that town icon Cecil Waldo had passed away.
There was a crowd for the Wednesday meeting who wanted to hear what the Town Attorney Jim Carroll had to say about the Yosemite Fire House. What he said was not what people had hoped to hear. During the title search much was learned. Carroll stated that land records were reviewed and they found “a humdinger of a title!” The land records were very interesting, there were not many transactions but they left ambiguity as to who owns the land under the old firehouse. There were several reversionaries in the records.
This does not give a marketable title. A bank would not give a loan on this property nor would it be insurable. Grant funding asks for an opinion letter and would be in jeopardy with the clouded title.
In March of 1872 Prescott and Mary Heald convey all the land to Joseph Richardson including the land under the firehouse. In 1873 the firehouse is built. In 1880 Richardson conveys the small parcel of land to fire district #2 with a reversionary clause: If the fire district ceases to exist or is not used the land reverts back to Richardson’s heirs and assigns.
Fast forward to January 1968: The fire district #2 merged with the fire district #1 located on School Street by the swinging bridge and was named The Chester Fire Department. All property went to the Town of Chester. The firehouse was still used.
In 1974 the new fire station was built and the use and occupancy ceases. However the old equipment is still stored there. Should the second part of the original reversionary deed have been used then?
In 1976 Pember and Gertrude Hazen convey the property and building to the Chester Historical Society with a reversionary deed. Did they have a deed to that property to convey it to the Historical Society?
Now who does own the Yosemite Firehouse and the land on which it sits? There are lots of questions and issues to be sorted out. The title is clouded.
Attorney Carroll asked if the Historical Society and town would be willing to join forces to get a legal opinion of a judge that would be valid and legal called a Quiet Title Action. It would cost money to publish in papers to find heirs and assigns of Joseph Richardson. However, not many people would want the building, as it will cost lots of money to make the building safe and insure it. It would cost $5,000 or
Thousands if someone came forward and contested the proceeding.
In the meantime the Historical Society and the town could be held responsible to keep the building safe.
Ron Patch, president of the Historical Society, at this point announced the building was insured until the end of September and laid the key to the building on the table saying, “I’m done.” He also said he was willing to work with the town to get a legal opinion or the Quiet Title Action.
Carroll and Patch will meet in the next two weeks to let Carroll know what the Historical Society has and knows. Carroll will be back at the next meeting.
At 8:37 p.m. the board voted to go into executive session and went to Town Manager David Pisha’s office to talk about a Chester vs Jason Carrara issue. They excited the executive session at 9:04 p.m. The board voted to authorize a settlement with a stipulation for judgement and dismissal.
Watch the full meeting on SAPA-TV.
The meeting adjourned at 10 p.m.