Local land use boards, such as zoning boards and planning boards, issue decisions on applications—such as site plan applications, subdivision applications, variances, and special exceptions—based on the information presented by the applicant(s) and considered in accordance with state law and local ordinance provisions. Boards may reject or deny applications or petitions when evidence is lacking, or the board finds issue with the application such that it would be against the public interest and welfare to approve.
While boards may reject applications, applicants have a statutory right to appeal a board’s decision when the applicant believes the decision was made in error. The first step in appealing a board’s decision is to petition for a rehearing on the matter. A petition for rehearing must be brought in a timely manner in accordance with statute and/or ordinance provision; for example, RSA 677:2 requires all appeals of zoning board orders or decisions must apply for a rehearing within 30 days after issuance of the order. Boards may grant rehearings if in its opinion good reason for such a rehearing is stated in the motion. See, e.g., RSA 677:2.
When local land use boards refuse to permit a rehearing on a denied or rejected application, the applicant may have the option to appeal the decision to the Superior Court within thirty (30) days after the date upon which the board voted to deny the rehearing. See RSA 677:4 (providing for appeals of zoning boards). In an appeal to the Superior Court, the burden of proof lies on the person appealing to the court must prove that the decision is unlawful or unreasonable. RSA 677:6.
In general, while local land use boards are given great latitude in making decisions at the local level, decisions may be re-examined or appealed to higher tribunals when there is such occasion to do so. For more information on land use, please contact Attorney Liz Nolin.