Friday, July 18, 2008

Can you really do this?

When a former Wall Street analyst from Greenwich, Conn., set his sights on a lush parcel of 150 acres here, he knew he wanted to live atop its highest peak, surrounded by panoramic views and rippling meadows studded with red clover, Vermont's state flower.

There was only this hitch: A short distance from the site where J. Michel Guite envisioned building a house was a white picket-fenced burial ground with the graves of a War of 1812 veteran, Noah Aldrich, his two granddaughters, and several stones presumed to be grave markers of other family members. Guite was concerned that the cemetery would trouble his children when they played in the tall-grass fields.

The cemetery, he decided, had to go. He gave notice that he intended to move three of the marked grave sites.

The move has inflamed this rural town, prompting a lawsuit, criticism in a local paper, a resolution at Town Meeting denouncing Guite's plans, and a protest banner in the July Fourth parade that said, "Let Noah Aldrich continue to lie in peace."

In many ways, the bitterness and anger vented on Guite are about more than one man and reflects a mounting wave of resentment against outsiders seen as snapping up valuable Vermont land with little respect for its heritage.