A state lawmaker from Alfred is being sued by neighbors who claim she and her husband improperly clear-cut more than 4,300 trees on the neighbors’ property to build a barn and paddock.

The lawsuit was filed against Rep. Heidi Sampson and Robert Sampson by Sasha and Christopher Malone, who claim the Sampsons clear-cut part of the Malones’ heavily forested 11.5-acre property. Sampson, a Republican, has represented House District 21 since 2016 and previously served on the State Board of Education.

Rep. Heidi Sampson Maine Legislature photo

The Malones allege in their complaint that the Sampsons “intentionally or negligently” clear-cut more than 4,344 trees from the Malones’ property, then built a barn, stable and gated horse paddock on the area. The trees were part of a forest management plan through Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Law program and their removal resulted in an administrative penalty of $5,352, according to the complaint filed Oct. 7, 2020, in York County Superior Court.

The Sampsons maintain that they mistakenly believed the area was part of their own property and constructed the barn and other structures in the area before finding out it was on their neighbors’ property, according to court records. The Sampsons have filed a third-party complaint against Robert W. Libby & Sons Inc., the company that harvested the trees in 2012.

The Sampsons declined to comment through their attorney, Joseph Cahoon Jr. of Richardson, Whitman, Large & Badger. Neither Robert W. Libby & Sons nor the company’s attorney responded to interview requests.

The Malones last week requested permission from the court to submit an amended and supplemental complaint that would add counts related to allegations that the Sampsons trespassed and tore down the barn last fall after the original complaint was filed by the Malones. The Malones asked for a judgment declaring the Sampsons have no rights to the Malones’ property and awarding punitive damages.

A judge has not yet ruled on the motion to admit the amended and supplemental complaint. The parties are expected to begin mediation by the end of June.

“The Malones are saddened and hurt that eight acres of their beloved home forestland was illegally clear-cut, but we have confidence that justice will prevail through the courts,” their attorney, James Monteleone of Bernstein Shur, said in a statement.

The Malones bought their densely forested property in Alfred in 2008 “for the love of the property’s woodlands” and developed a forest management plan to ensure the majority of the property would be protected as productive woodlands, according to their complaint. The management plan was recognized through the Tree Growth Tax Law program, which qualified them to receive about $500 in annual property tax credits from the town of Alfred.

The Maine Legislature enacted the Tree Growth Tax Law in 1972 to help landowners maintain their property as productive woodlands.

The trees were cut from the property in 2012, but the Malones did not discover they had been cleared until early 2020, when they were performing their 10-year renewal of the tree growth program, according to the complaint. After the Malones found out about the tree cutting, a licensed forester counted and measured the stumps cut around 2012.

The stumps, which ranged from 2 inches to more than 22 inches in diameter, were valued at $137,825 based on the state’s forfeiture value, according to the complaint.

The Sampsons built the barn on the property in 2016. Construction started before Robert Sampson applied for and was issued a building permit, according to a copy of the building permit included in the complaint.

In their third-party complaint, the Sampsons say that a forester who works for Robert W. Libby & Sons developed the tree-cutting plan and, prior to harvesting, determined the location where trees could be cut. The Sampsons “rightfully relied” on the company to only cut trees on their property and “did not instruct, request or otherwise suggest” that the company cut any trees on the Malones’ property, according to the complaint.

The third-party complaint says Robert W. Libby & Sons breached its contract and was negligent when it cut trees on a neighboring property. The Sampsons asked the court to hold the company liable for any damages the Sampsons could be required to pay the Malones.

In a response to the third-party complain, Robert W. Libby & Sons, based in Cornish, acknowledged the company entered into a wood product purchase agreement with the Sampsons on April 19, 2012, but denied or said it had insufficient information about the allegations in the complaint.


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