April 19, 2019

Scott Paper suing Brighton Plantation man over roadblock

SKOWHEGAN — A Brighton Plantation man who blocked an access road used by Scott Paper Co. to protest herbicide spraying is being sued by the company.

Michael R. Vernon, 41, is named in the lawsuit filed in Somerset County Superior Court, along with an East Madison land partner and Vernon’s parents.

The suit was filed by the S.D. Warren Co., a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania-based Scott. On Oct. 19, 1990, Vernon used his truck to block a road that passes through his 63 acres of woodland.

Vernon, a former selectman and current code enforcement officer and chairman of the Brighton Planning Board, was protesting the transportation of herbicides across his land.

According to court documents, the company seeks to establish its rights to the 1,800-foot section of the West Brighton Road as access to timber-harvesting property north of Vernon’s land.

The company contends that by virtue of long-time timberlands use, care, management and harvesting, the rights to the road, now discontinued, have been acquired by Scott.

Vernon, who has owned the land on both sides of the road since 1980, said that by nature of the abandoned or discontinued status of the road, it is his property.

According to his research, Vernon said, all unmaintained roads discontinued in Maine before 1965 have been classified as abandoned, with ownership reverting to the property owners.

“The issue is basic land use and having a say on what can and can’t be done on my land,” Vernon said Monday. “Scott wants to make me an example to suppress opposition to land abuses.”

Vernon’s opposition to the spraying of the herbicide Roundup on land clear-cut by the paper company came to a head last fall when he blocked the traditional access route to the company-owned land.

“They have poisoned the river, fouled the air, trashed the woods and poisoned the land with their sprays,” Vernon said.

“The bottom line is that the paper companies are used to doing what they want, where and when they want to do it. They are not going to transport poisons across my land,” he said.

While the documents focus on legal access to paper company land in the Brighton woods, the company also is asking that Vernon pay all costs and an unspecified amount of money in damages.

Scott attorney Roger A. Welch of Waterville said the company is seeking traditional and continued access to company timber lands.

“The primary issue is the right of use to the roadway,” said Welch, who would not comment further on the case.

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