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Lynch v. Town of Pelham

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

October 24, 2014

J. Albert Lynch
v.
Town of Pelham

Argued January 16, 2014.

Page 1048

Hillsborough -- southern judicial district.

Cronin, Bisson & Zalinsky P.C., of Manchester ( John G. Cronin and Daniel D. Muller, Jr. on the brief, and Mr. Cronin orally), for the plaintiff.

Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella, PLLC, of Exeter ( Katherine B. Miller on the brief and orally), for the defendant.

BASSETT, J. DALIANIS, C.J., and HICKS, CONBOY, and LYNN, JJ., concurred.

OPINION

Page 1049

Bassett, J.

The plaintiff, J. Albert Lynch, Trustee of FIN-LYN Trust (Trustee), appeals an

Page 1050

order of the Superior Court ( Nicolosi, J.) granting a motion to dismiss his action seeking to enforce restrictive covenants contained in a deed between the Trustee and the Town of Pelham (Town). The trial court ruled that the covenants at issue are appurtenant and personal, and that the Trustee lacked standing to enforce them. We reverse and remand.

The following facts were drawn from the plaintiff's petition, the allegations of which we accept as true for the purposes of reviewing the trial court's order on the motion to dismiss. Elter-Nodvin v. Nodvin, 163 N.H. 678, 679, 48 A.3d 908 (2012). In the 1980s, Elizabeth Mills owned twenty-four acres of land in the center of the Town. After she fell ill, her daughter, Shirley Parker, attempted to sell the property. Two local developers made offers to Parker with the intent to subdivide the property into multiple building lots. Before she had acted upon either offer, Louis Fineman and J. Albert Lynch, both residents of Pelham, approached Parker about purchasing the entire tract for $300,000, with the intention to sell it to the Town rather than develop it.

[167 N.H. 17] Fineman and Lynch approached the Town Board of Selectmen with their proposal to purchase the property and then sell it to the Town. The Board of Selectmen told them that the Town would be willing to purchase only eighteen acres because it could not afford the entire tract. Sometime prior to the conveyance, the FIN-LYN Trust was established with Lynch as the trustee. On February 1, 1985, the property was conveyed to Lynch, as Trustee, by deed recorded in the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds. On or about March 25, 1985, the Town Planning Board signed an approved subdivision plan for the property, also recorded in the Hillsborough County Registry of Deeds, which depicted an eighteen-acre parcel, Lot 7-237, and six one-acre building lots, Lot 7-237-1 through Lot 7-237-6, intended for single-family use. The Trustee sold the six building lots on May 1, 1985, and engaged in negotiations with the Town relative to the eighteen-acre lot.

William Hayes, the chairman of the Planning Board, negotiated on behalf of the Town. From the outset, the Trustee insisted that the eighteen-acre parcel be used only for municipal buildings, and that the Town set up a committee to study the development of town offices on the property. The Town ultimately agreed to purchase the eighteen-acre parcel for $180,000, subject to a number of restrictive covenants. The deed conveying the eighteen-acre parcel was executed on May 31, 1985. It provided, in part:

(6) All buildings to be constructed on the land hereby conveyed shall be of Colonial architecture and shall be architecturally consistent with each other. No building shall have a flat or single pitch roof and no building shall exceed two stories in height, excluding the basement.
(7) Within two years of the date of this deed and prior to the construction of any building or parking lot on the southern one[-]third of the land hereby conveyed, the [Town] shall plant a dense row, at least thirty (30) feet deep, of white pine, scotch pine, fir, spruce or willow trees along the southern property line of the land hereby conveyed.
... .
(13) The [Town] agrees to reconstruct and maintain the stone wall along Marsh Road and said wall may be breached only for ingress and egress.
... .
The land hereby conveyed is subject to and has the benefit of easements, restrictions, agreements and reservations of record, if ...

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