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HGTV host Jonathan Knight faces legal battle over farm renovations

HGTV star Jonathan Knight faces a bitter legal battle over his Massachusetts ranch. The “Farmhouse Fixer” host and former New Kids on the Block singer was charged by a land trust in 2021. He appealed later that year. A hearing in Massachusetts Land Court is scheduled for Oct. 14, 2022, records show.

The Trustees of Reservations have filed a lawsuit against King’s Court Trust, which founded Knight as the owner of his farm in Essex, and Scott Harmon, the trustee of Knight’s trust, accusing them of violating conservation restrictions on the property, court documents obtained by Heavy show. According to court documents, Knight has been trying to upgrade and relocate the single-family home on his six-acre lot since 2015. King’s Court Trust contradicted itself, accusing the Trustees of targeting them while allowing neighbors to get away with violations of conservation restrictions.

The property is part of 100 acres overseen by the Trustees since 1976 known as Bothways Farm. The conservation restrictions prohibit owners from constructing new buildings on land not used for agricultural activities. The restrictions were put in place to preserve the agricultural and farming history of the coastal area. According to its website, The Trustees of Reservations, “For more than a century, The Trustees have been on the ground in communities across Massachusetts, working to protect special places, providing loving care for our reservations, building creative new programs to help people and sharing our expertise with neighbors and partners across the state.”

The Trustees website adds: “The centerpiece of the Trustees’ mission is to protect places of ecological, scenic and historic interest. We search far and wide to find Massachusetts’ most potentially endangered iconic landscapes and precious cultural relics, navigate the complex and long path to bring them under our protection, and allocate land management resources and expertise to maintain their integrity well into the future. future.” Their mission is to preserve agriculture.

Knight’s mother, Marlene Putman, also lives on the property and first bought it in 1999, according to court documents. Knight lives in a house on the property with his husband, Harley Rodriguez.

The Trustees filed a 133-page complaint in November 2021. In the complaint, The Trustees wrote: “Although the owner of the land bought it with full knowledge that the land was subject to a conservation restriction and therefore subject to certain clearly defined restrictions, all designed to preserve its open and rural characteristics.” of the property, he has persevered for nearly a decade in a development campaign that ignores the plain language of conservation limitation.

They added: “When The Trustees have given approval for certain types of development on the property, the owner pulls a bait and switches. On other occasions, the other has sought approval and approval from The Trustees after a structure has already been completed and discovered by The Trustees, who wrote:

The lawsuit states, “At various times during their ownership, Ms. Putman and Mr. Knight have attempted to develop the property in a manner inconsistent with the language of the conservation restriction.”

The complaint details the back and forth between Knight and The Trustees during his efforts to expand and renovate homes on the property. It also includes emails and plans as exhibits. The trustees are asking the Land Court to remove agricultural structures they did not approve before they were built, including a chicken coop, garden shed and lean-to on the side of a barn.

They also want the court to clear out an equipment shed that has been denied by The Trustees and order Knight to halt and reject construction of a shed that they say will be used as a residential structure and not as an agricultural structure. They also demand attorneys’ fees and costs, according to court documents.

In December 2021, Harmon filed a counterclaim against The Trustees on behalf of King’s Court Trust, according to court documents obtained by Heavy which can be read here.

Harmon told the Gloucester Daily Times in June 2022 that neighbors have been able to start larger projects without too many complications. “We don’t begrudge the neighbors. We understand that everyone has their own needs and they also had to fight for their own work,” Harmon told the paper.

Knight called The Trustees on social media. He wrote in a tweet addressed to The Trustees’ attorney in May 2022: “Why are you surprised I’m tweeting? The organization you represent is the hardest and most opaque nonprofit. They led me and I followed, only to be charged. Get your facts straight. And stop making landowners look bad.”

Knight added in another tweet“Dear Kate, @thetrustees attorney: I’m happy to move this to the discovery stage so we can expose all the lies your organization has given me over the past 6 years. Your big powerful non-profit making millions doesn’t scare me!”

According to online records, a hearing for Land Court judge Kevin T. Smith is scheduled for 10 a.m. October 14, 2022. The hearing was scheduled for January. The two sides last met in court via video on Dec. 15, 2021, for a case management conference, records show. At that hearing, Smith ruled that the two sides should complete the discovery process by September 30.

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