Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Town of Goshen v. Casagrande

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

January 26, 2018

TOWN OF GOSHEN
v.
CARL N. CASAGRANDE

          Argued: October 25, 2017

          Gardner Fulton and Waugh PLLC, of Lebanon (H. Bernard Waugh, Jr. and C. Christine Fillmore on the brief, and Mr. Waugh orally), for the plaintiff.

          Cleveland, Waters and Bass, P.A., of Concord (William B. Pribis on the brief and orally), for the defendant.

          BASSETT, J.

         The defendant, landowner Carl N. Casagrande, appeals an order from the Superior Court (Tucker, J.) granting a motion for summary judgment filed by the plaintiff, the Town of Goshen. The issue before the trial court was whether a section of road abutting Casagrande's property is an unmaintained town road, or whether, as Casagrande contends, it is private property because the residents of Goshen voted at a town meeting in 1891 to discontinue the road. After reviewing the record of the 1891 town meeting, including the language of the warrant article, the trial court concluded that the town had not voted to discontinue the road, and, therefore, Page Hill Road is a public highway. We affirm.

         The following facts are undisputed. Casagrande owns property with frontage on Page Hill Road in Goshen. Page Hill Road runs from Province Road in Goshen to the Newport town line, where it becomes a Newport town highway. Goshen maintains the southerly .17-mile portion of Page Hill Road between Province Road and Casagrande's driveway. The unmaintained portion of Page Hill Road begins at Casagrande's driveway. Casagrande has installed a combination-locked gate that prevents vehicle access to Page Hill Road north of his driveway. Only town police, local fire officials, and abutters who request access have the combination to the lock.

         In 1891, the Goshen town meeting voted on whether to discontinue the section of Page Hill Road north of Casagrande's driveway. Article 11 of the Warrant for the 1891 Goshen town meeting reads as follows:

To see if the Town will vote to discontinue and throw up the highway leading from Willie E. Howe's to Newport town line providing Newport will throw up theirs to meet us.

         The vote of the town meeting was recorded as: "Art 11th: Voted to throw up the road mentioned in this article." The Town of Newport has never discontinued its portion of Page Hill Road.

         Goshen filed suit in superior court requesting that the court permanently enjoin Casagrande from blocking public access to Page Hill Road. Goshen claimed that, because Page Hill Road is a Class VI highway, access cannot be blocked by a locked gate. RSA 231:21-a, I (2009). Goshen moved for summary judgment. Casagrande objected, contending that the unmaintained portion of Page Hill Road north of his driveway was discontinued by a vote at town meeting in 1891. Casagrande argued that the road was discontinued because the condition precedent set forth in the warrant article - that Newport "throw up" its portion of the road - is not reflected in the meeting minutes and, therefore, was not incorporated into the vote of the town meeting. The trial court granted summary judgment for Goshen, ruling that Casagrande had not met his burden to prove the road had been discontinued. This appeal followed.

         The parties agree, as do we, that Goshen had the legal authority to condition discontinuance of the road on a subsequent event. See New London v. Davis, 73 N.H. 72, 75 (1904) (holding that a town's ability to discontinue a road would be "seriously hindered, or wholly prevented, if the vote could not be made to depend upon a future event"). Moreover, the parties further agree that, if the 1891 vote did not actually discontinue Page Hill Road, then the unmaintained portion of the road in Goshen remains a Class VI highway, open to the public. Thus, the dispositive legal issue on appeal, as it was in the trial court, is whether the 1891 vote of the town meeting to discontinue Page Hill Road was conditioned upon Newport's discontinuance of its portion of Page Hill Road.

         In reviewing the trial court's grant of summary judgment, we consider the affidavits and other evidence, and all inferences properly drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Weaver v. Stewart, 169 N.H. 420, 425 (2016). If our review of that evidence discloses no genuine issue of material fact, and if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, we affirm the grant of summary judgment. Id. We review the trial court's application of the law to the facts de novo. Id.

         On appeal, Casagrande argues that the trial court erred when it concluded that the 1891 town meeting vote conditioned the discontinuance of Page Hill Road on reciprocal action by the Town of Newport. He contends that, unless a town meeting record is "unclear or ambiguous, " or incorporates the warrant article by reference, the warrant article should not be considered when interpreting the town vote. Our inquiry is not so limited.

         Resolution of this case requires that we interpret the record from the 1891 town meeting to determine whether the voters intended to condition discontinuance of Page Hill Road upon action by the Town of Newport. "Because public roads are discontinued by town vote, and such actions are recorded, the best evidence of discontinuance is the official record." Blagbrough Family Realty Trust v. A & T Forest Prods., 155 N.H. 29, 37 (2007) (quotation and ellipsis omitted). We have long "recognized that town meetings do not consistently express their purposes with legal precision and nicety and that votes adopted by such meetings will be liberally construed" to give legal effect to language imprecisely employed to express the corporate purpose. McMahon v. Town of Salem, 104 N.H. 219, 220 (1962) (citation omitted). Therefore, we consider ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.