Last Thursday, Nov. 6, the Piedmont Environmental Council attempted to present their case before the Virginia Outdoors Foundation. During this hearing, they attempted to explain to everyone present how one particularly ornery Fauquier County farmer, Martha Boneta, harassed them during the course of their daily responsibilities.
Let’s rewind for a moment now and expose some of their outright lies and deceptions.
The PEC would have you believe that all of their “inspectors” know the law, and the specific easement language for the properties that they are inspecting. This in itself is a lie. This lie was witnessed by at least 10, if not more, individuals who visited Boneta’s farm on June 12, 2014.
On that day the inspector specifically stated before all who were gathered to hear him that he did not know the easement language.
I know. I was there. I heard it with my own ears.
The PEC has since tried to cover this up by stating that he was trying to be pleasant to work with, yet all those present with me that day heard him say that he did not know the language of the easement. This isn’t pleasant; this is incompetent.
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Perhaps you might now understand the shock of all those present: This was evidence of blatant harassment. How else would you describe someone who insisted he had a legal right to look through the Bonetas’ closets, yet wasn’t familiar with the contract he believed gave him that right?
The PEC has claimed that they have only been on Boneta’s property for nine inspections over the last three years, totaling less than one hour each. While this statement may be true on the surface, it is in reality a malicious deception. You see, I was personally on the Bonetas’ farm on Sept. 27 of this year. On that day, I witnessed with my own eyes someone conducting a surveillance operation from the public roadway. He was walking down the road, staring into the property, and speaking into a voice-recording device. Yet today, the PEC would have you believe that they’re not consumed with abusing the Bonetas’ by saying they’ve only been on the property physically for less than three hours each year. How can they be consumed with abusing this farmer if they’ve only invested nine hours in the last three years? Yet if you ask them instead to tell you how often they’ve been surveilling Boneta’s farm from off of their property, then we will see if they choose to come clean.
The PEC has claimed that Boneta supporters have harassed them. They believe that people taking pictures and videos of them, such as they are doing to the Boneta’s, is harassment. Apparently, what constitutes good behavior on their part and in their eyes is harassment when someone else does it to them.
The PEC claims that a visiting farm hand, who happened to be wearing a hunting knife and a machete, was harassing them and that they were “in fear” of their lives. Perhaps if the quiet and reserved 16-year-old boy spoke to them during their visit their claims might make more sense. Perhaps if he had threatened or yelled at them then their claims would make more sense.
Further, I suppose if this farm hand had pulled either blade from its sheath there might be the beginnings of a case for harassment. But let’s be honest here, you and I both know that if any of this had happened then the police would’ve been called immediately. In reality, no crime was ever committed.
This is evidenced by the fact that no one ever felt the need to call the police. No one was ever threatened. Indeed, this farm hand’s 9-year-old younger brother was leading the inspectors in an effort to help them and facilitate their inspection. What you have instead is evidence of the PEC grasping at straws in a vain attempt to vilify the Bonetas’ yet again.
But what about the knives, you ask? They stayed within their sheathes until after the inspectors left. Then, and only then, were we all permitted a demonstration of how useful a machete can be on a farm: It was used to split a coconut to help feed the chickens.
What makes this absolutely outrageous is that the PEC is now demanding a police escort the next time they visit the farm. Can you believe that? The PEC believes they need a police escort because a young, 16-year-old farm hand brought with him the tools of his trade?
The next lie the PEC made before the Virginia Outdoors Federation and the public was to state that the Bonetas’ have made improvements to their barn in order to facilitate a residence. Let’s look at their evidences briefly, and compare them to the Virginia General Assembly building where the hearing was held:
– First, both buildings have hot water heaters. Since this didn’t turn the General Assembly Building into a residence, why must the PEC believe a hot water heater turns a barn into a residence?
– Second, the General Assembly building has a stove and a refrigerator, both supporting a cafeteria. I wouldn’t be surprised to find other refrigerators and microwaves as well throughout the building. Neither of these have turned the General Assembly building into a residence.
– Third, while I can’t say for certain of the Virginia General Assembly building, I do know that the U.S. Senate chambers have a storage area with cots in it. These do get set up from time to time, and yet I doubt anyone would argue that the U.S. Senate chambers constitute a residence.
– Finally, many of the offices in the Virginia General Assembly building have waiting rooms sporting very lush seating areas. A futon provides a cheaper seating area, yet the PEC believes this is evidence of a residence.
The fact is, none of these “evidences” is sufficient to prove that the Bonetas’ have either created a residence, or even made modifications to facilitate a residence. This is why, in my opinion, the PEC keep making ever-intrusive “inspections.” This is why the PEC keeps insisting on looking through all of Boneta’s drawers and closets. They want to find clothing, clean or not, and they would prefer to find underwear. They believe that, should they find underwear on this farm, they could then prove the Bonetas’ have created a residence rather than simply making the improvements necessary to support their business.
Now, if this isn’t harassment, then I don’t know what is. Let’s go back and couple this observation with statements made by PEC inspectors indicating that they do not believe there are limits to their inspection authority.
This behavior by the PEC gives conservation easements a really bad name. The PEC would like to believe that land protected by a conservation easement is protected forever from development. If this outrageous behavior continues, I think a national backlash against such easements would be more likely. It might even end in the declarations that conservation easements constitute illegal, and therefore non-binding, contracts.
Concerned Citizen of Fauquier County
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