Judge orders Plainfield couple to leave their home; owners taking steps to sell property

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 05-29-2024 5:07 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Continuing a series of legal sanctions against a Plainfield couple accused of violating sanitary and building codes at their Bow Street residence, a Hampshire Superior Court judge Tuesday ordered the couple to leave their home until the violations are remedied.

At the same time, the owners and the town officials who filed a motion for a preliminary injunction May 1 submitted an agreement to the court under which the owners, Gregory and Alyssa Miller, would resolve some of the violations as they prepare to sell the property.

The officials — the Board of Health chair, the Conservation Commission chair and the building commissioner — have asserted in court filings that conditions at the property create “a significant danger to the health and safety of the defendants and the public.”

The property is officially owned by Christian Faith Ministries Trust, with Greg and Alyssa Miller listed as trustees.

Town officials first filed an enforcement action in Hampshire Superior Court in December 2022, saying the Millers were living with two small children in a barn on Bow Street with no plumbing, septic system or potable water. They also charged the couple with conducting unpermitted work in a wetland buffer zone.

Officials said the Millers had repeatedly ignored orders from municipal authorities to bring their dwelling into compliance and had refused to meet with them to “map out a path to compliance.”

They did not appeal the orders, nor did they comply, officials stated.

“They refused to allow us in the house,” Building Commissioner Charlene Baiardi said outside court last summer.

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In his ruling Tuesday, Judge John Agostini wrote that inspections at the Bow Street property finally took place in November, after Judge James Manitsas found the couple in contempt of court, imposed a fine of $1,500 and ordered them to permit inspections or face further fines.

Inspectors confirmed numerous violations, including no code-compliant septic system, no potable water and no certificate of occupancy, as well as unpermitted work in a protected resource area.

Agostini ordered that the Miller family vacate the property within seven days and until the code violations are corrected; that they hire a consultant to prepare a plan to remove all debris, outbuildings and human waste, and replant herbaceous and wood species in cleared areas; and that the plan be submitted to the Conservation Commission.

In their court filings, representing themselves, the Millers usually began by stating that they “do not take on any titles such as pro se, trustee, PERSON, etc.; nor do i wish to contract nor give consent to any legal agents; nor do i, understand or agree to any legal codes, acts, or statutes at this time or any time without consent of i;”

Speaking after a court hearing last year, Gregory Miller said town officials had shown him “no verifiable claim that we’re in breach of contract.”

They informed the various judges overseeing the case that they “consider any attempt to enforce legal codes, acts, or statutes to be a trespass by way of barratry or extortion.” They occasionally concluded their communications with demands for compensation.

But, in a filing submitted to the court Tuesday and signed by town officials, their attorney and Gregory Miller, the defendants agreed to several conditions:

■To install smoke detectors on both floors of the property.

■ To allow the town electrical inspector to ensure the property is disconnected from the grid.

■To contact a wetlands restoration consultant with a view to remediating violations, or share the town’s enforcement order for inclusion in Multiple Listing Service information.

■To obtain a porta-potty for use on the property

■To list the property for sale by June 11.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Blake of KP Law in Boston said Wednesday his clients were hopeful that the case could now be resolved.

Messages were left Wednesday for Gregory and Alyssa Miller, Baiardi and health board Chair Ellen DuPont.

James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.