NORTH ANDOVER — A Lacy Street woman embroiled in a property dispute said her neighbors arrived unannounced early yesterday with a backhoe and demolished her horse barn.
Stacy Birch, of 95 Lacy St., said the neighbors showed up at 7 a.m. along with several police cruisers. Birch said she was given no notice about their plans to tear the barn down.
"Nothing at all," said Birch. "My horses were still in the barn."
Birch was ordered in August by the town to remove her eight horses, two chickens and a pig from her three-acre property, which is located near the Boxford State Forest.
Birch did not comply with the order and was given an extension this fall.
Birch said her husband was forced to build a temporary shelter for the animals yesterday.
"This is like a surprise attack," said Theodore Goguen, Birch's lawyer. "I should have been notified. They're doing this based on a 2006 court order. Nothing recent. It's craziness."
Birch said she has kept horses on the property, known as Whippoorwill Farm, since the 1960s. The roughly 13-acre farm had been owned by Barbara Tighe until her death in 2002.
Birch has said Tighe left the entire property to her, but a court order in September 2006 limited Birch's access to three acres surrounding her home.
The remaining acreage is now controlled by Tighe's estate and will be sold to Birch's neighbor, John O'Mahony of 143 Lacy St., according to lawyer William Hurley.
"All we're going to do is sell it," said Hurley, who represents Tighe's estate. "They're going to use it for agricultural purposes."
Hurley said the horse barn demolished yesterday straddles the property line. He said a demolition permit was recently obtained from the town building inspector.
Hurley dismissed Goguen's claim that the demolition was a surprise. He said Tighe's estate has attempted to demolish the barn ever since the 2006 court order was issued.
"Stacy has at all times physically refused to comply with that order," said Hurley. "It's not too late. It's the first opportunity we've had."
Hurley said multiple legal appeals have held up the estate from taking action. He said Birch has also obstructed contractors sent to the property to get an estimate for the demolition work.
"She literally loosed hounds on them," said Hurley. "So they left."
Birch said the O'Mahonys posted "No Trespassing" signs yesterday on the driveway next to her home. Two men also removed Birch's mailbox from the edge of the street.
"You can't do this," Birch yelled from her property. "That's against the law."
Both Stephanie and John O'Mahony have written letters to the town alleging numerous zoning and other violations on Birch's property.
"She's been on notice with the town for a long time," said Stephanie O'Mahony yesterday as she watched the backhoe demolish the barn.
Town officials contend Birch is violating a zoning law that restricts the number of "non-household pets" on residential properties.
Birch maintains her property is zoned for agricultural use.
Goguen said yesterday that, under the three-acre property restriction, Birch may also no longer have access to her ground well.
"That's the question," said Goguen. "If she doesn't have water it's not habitable. They'll close her down."
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