The Massachusetts Land Court has ruled in favor of Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation in a bitter dispute over ownership of a three-acre parcel of land in Chilmark.
The court had been asked to clarify title to a lot that Nisa Counter and Benjamin Ramsey had bought on Blue Barque Road in 2010 from a family member. Sheriff’s Meadow had argued that the land was part of a 10-acre parcel the conservation group had previously been given by the late C. Russell Walton.
The disagreement came to a head in the summer of 2011 when Ms. Counter and Mr. Ramsey got a permit from the town and began to clear the land and build a wooden tent on it. Sheriff’s Meadow filed a lawsuit to assert its title and obtained a temporary restraining order to stop the construction pending the outcome.
In a 26-page opinion issued April 1, the land court traced ownership of a large tract of land back to 1805, when it was owned by Zaccariah Mayhew. Through a series of conveyances over two centuries, the court found, the disputed parcel ended up as part of the Freeman Hancock Woodlot, which the court said was Mr. Walton’s to give to Sheriff’s Meadow in 1973.
Even though Ms. Counter and Mr. Ramsey had a deed from Wilma G. Hancock, who sold them the land for $9,000 in 2010, the land was not hers to sell, the court said.
The court also dismissed arguments that Ms. Counter and Mr. Ramsey had established title to the land through adverse possession, ruling that they failed to meet the standard of having “actual, open, notorious, exclusive and adverse” use of it for 20 years.
Mr. Ramsey represented himself at the land court trial, which was held in Edgartown in April 2013.