For years, NH property owners have had to defend their properties against overreaching local governments. There is a law in place in New Hampshire from 2006 that states no land can be taken from a property owner to be given for the purpose of private use or development. However, even that law was not enough to prevent a ruling to discontinue access to a public road and instead utilize a privately maintained road instead.
The ruling I am referring to occurred during the case of Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. Town of Conway & a. This case was brought to the courts, after a proposal was submitted to close one of the access roads to the North Conway Grand Hotel. This may not have seemed like a big deal since there was another public road, as well as a private road.
The owner of the private road, Settlers Green, set a proposal to the planning board to eliminate McMillan Lane and replace it with another private road. This proposal was unsettling to the hotel, because they knew they had no recourse if Settlers Green ever failed to maintain this new private road.
Once the town planning board agreed McMillan Lane could be eliminated in 2017, the case was taken to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately for NH property owners, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling. The court took many factors into account before making their final decision.
However, this decision could weaken any protections in place for New Hampshire property owners, because it raises many questions.
The main question is, “Since a discontinuance of a class V highway is compensable in NH, is discontinuance a taking?”.
There is a chance more municipalities can take advantage of this court ruling. If they do, property owners in New Hampshire may find themselves fighting harder to claim their rights. And honestly, they probably won’t come out on the winning side.
I wrote an entire article on the Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. Town of Conway & a case. You can read my publication in the NH Bar News.