Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
TransFarmations, Inc. v. Town of Amherst
Plaintiff TransFarmations, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to uphold the Town of Amherst Planning Board's (Town) decisions to deny TransFarmations' two successive applications for a conditional use permit (CUP). In May 2019, TransFarmations requested a “Conceptual Meeting” with the Town’s planning board (Board) concerning its proposed development of an approximately 130-acre property known as the Jacobson Farm. It stated that the “development will be designed to meet many of the desired attributes the Town . . . has articulated in [its] Master Plan and [Integrated] Innovative . . . Housing Ordinance (IIHO),” including workforce housing and over-55 housing. TransFarmations subsequently submitted a CUP application under the IIHO for a planned residential development containing 64 residential units. In its challenge to the decisions, TransFarmations argued both that the decisions failed to adequately state the ground for denial and that the Board acted unreasonably because the second CUP application was materially different from the first. The trial court concluded that the Board adequately provided the reason for its first decision on the record because “the Board members discussed, in detail, their reasons for concluding that no material differences [between the first and second applications] existed.” The court also concluded that “the Board acted reasonably and lawfully in reaching [that] decision.” Accordingly, the court affirmed both of the Board’s decisions. TransFarmations contended the trial court erred in affirming the Board’s decision not to accept the second application because TransFarmations submitted that application “at the Board’s invitation and with the information the Board requested.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded TransFarmations’ second application supplying the requested information was “materially different from its predecessor, thus satisfying Fisher.” Because the trial court’s decision concluding otherwise misapplied Fisher v. Dover, it was legally erroneous. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order as to the second CUP decision and remanded. View "TransFarmations, Inc. v. Town of Amherst" on Justia Law
Appeal of Eleonora Porobic
This case involved a challenge to the Town of Bartlett’s 2018 tax assessment of a single-family home located on 0.88 acres of land owned by petitioner Eleonora Porobic. In 2017, the property was assessed at $206,000. In 2018, following the construction of an addition to the house and the clearing of trees, which expanded a view of the mountains, as well as a “full update” of property values in the Town by its new assessing contractor, Avitar Associates of New England, Inc., the property was assessed at $408,400. After the Town denied Porobic’s abatement request, she appealed to the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA), objecting to the Town’s position that the value of the land had increased by $153,000 as a result of the expanded view of the mountains. Porobic submitted an appraisal of the property prepared by Nanci Stone-Hayes, a certified general appraiser, valuing the property at a fair market value of $270,000 (Hayes Appraisal), and argued that she was entitled to an abatement based on that valuation. The Town, however, defended its assessment, arguing that the Hayes Appraisal understated the value of the expanded view. The BTLA found neither party’s valuation entirely persuasive, determining the Hayes Appraisal understated the property’s market value, and the Town’s assessment overstated it. Consequently, the BTLA concluded that Porobic had carried her burden to demonstrate that the property was assessed at a higher percentage of fair market value than the general level of assessment in the Town, and that, as such, she was paying more than her proportional share of taxes. The BTLA granted Porobic’s request for an abatement, and reduced the property’s 2018 assessed value to $345,400. Porobic appealed the new valuation, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the BTLA's decision and affirmed it. View "Appeal of Eleonora Porobic" on Justia Law
Appeal of Chichester Commons, LLC
Petitioner Chichester Commons, LLC appealed a Housing Appeals Board (HAB) decision affirming a decision of the planning board for respondent Town of Chichester (Town), denying petitioner’s request for a waiver of the density requirement set forth in the Town’s zoning ordinance. Petitioner argued that the HAB erred by affirming the board’s decision because, in 2015, the board granted the petitioner a density waiver for a similar elderly housing project that petitioner had proposed for the same property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the 2015 density waiver did not apply to the current version of petitioner’s proposed elderly housing project and was not binding upon the board. Accordingly, it affirmed the HAB’s decision. View "Appeal of Chichester Commons, LLC" on Justia Law
Natal v. GMPM Company & al.
Defendants GMPM Company and 479 Maple Street, LLC, appealed a circuit court order granting the petition for wrongful eviction filed by plaintiff Melissa Natal. On appeal, defendants argued the circuit court erred by determining that its property was not a “shared facility” as defined by RSA 540-B:1 (2021). Specifically, defendants argued RSA 540-B:1 did not require that an owner occupy the premises, but, rather, only that an owner have access to the common areas for the purposes of cleaning, maintaining, and monitoring the premises. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, for property to qualify as a shared facility under RSA 540-B:1, the owner had to reside at the premises with the occupants. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Natal v. GMPM Company & al." on Justia Law
Carter Country Club, Inc. v. Carter Community Building Association
Defendant Carter Community Building Association appealed a superior court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff Carter Country Club, Inc. (CCCI), on CCCI's petition to quiet title to a parcel of property in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Defendant also appealed the denial of its motion to amend its counterclaim to add a claim for declaratory relief. In 1986, CCCI conveyed the property at issue to the Trustee of the Farnum Hill Trust by deed. In December 1986, CCCI conveyed by deed the rights it reserved in the Farnum Hill deed to defendant. In November 1989, the property was conveyed to a private corporation. In September 1990, the corporation brought an action to quiet title, naming as defendants CCCI’s shareholders; defendant moved to intervene. In September 1991, a superior court issued an order declaring that the corporation’s title was “free and clear of all rights or interests” of CCCI’s shareholders, and ordering that any issues pertaining to the defendant’s motion to intervene would be addressed in further proceedings. The litigation settled without resolving the issue before the New Hampshire Supreme Court here, whether defendant had an interest in the property. At some point thereafter, the plaintiff took title to the property. In August 2018, the plaintiff brought an action to quiet title, naming the defendant as a party and claiming that the conveyance of CCCI’s future interest in the property to the defendant was void. The plaintiff’s theory was that the Farnum Hill deed created a right of reentry retained by CCCI, which, the plaintiff contended, was not freely transferable. The plaintiff also argued that the defendant’s interest in the property, if any, violated the rule against perpetuities and was an unreasonable restraint on alienation. The defendant counterclaimed, seeking a declaration that it had an enforceable future interest in the property. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that, notwithstanding that CCCI had an inalienable right of reentry, defendant may have the right to enforce a golf-course restriction as a restrictive covenant. Judgment was affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. View "Carter Country Club, Inc. v. Carter Community Building Association" on Justia Law
Posted in: Real Estate & Property Law
Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. 13 Green Street Properties, LLC et al.
Plaintiff Bellevue Properties, Inc. (Bellevue) appealed a superior court order dismissing its petition to quiet title and for declaratory judgment brought against the defendants, 13 Green Street Properties, LLC and 1675 W.M.H., LLC (collectively, 13 Green Street). Bellevue owned and operated the North Conway Grand Hotel, which abutted Settlers’ Green, an outlet shopping center owned by 13 Green Street. Common Court, a road that encircled the hotel and much of Settlers’ Green, provided access to the properties. Half of the road is private, and half is public. A recorded easement allowed hotel guests to travel over a private road and the private section of Common Court. 13 Green Street planned to construct a mixed-use development in Settlers’ Green, including a supermarket and parking lot, on an undeveloped parcel of land (Lot 92) and an abutting lot (Lot 85). McMillan Lane ran through Lots 92 and 85. To construct a single, continuous development across both lots, 13 Green Street sought to replace McMillan Lane with a new private road that, like McMillan Lane, would run from Barnes Road to the public section of Common Court. In November 2019, Bellevue filed this petition to “[q]uiet title to the land” underneath McMillan Lane “by declaring that [Bellevue] has an easement in the form of a private right of access over same” pursuant to RSA 231:43, III. 13 Green Street moved to dismiss, arguing that Bellevue could not assert a statutory right of access under RSA 231:43, III because its property did not directly abut McMillan Lane. The trial court agreed with 13 Green Street and dismissed Bellevue’s petition. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment of dismissal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bellevue Properties, Inc. v. 13 Green Street Properties, LLC et al." on Justia Law
Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, et al.
Eighteen petitioners (the Taxpayers) appealed a New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order issued following the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, 173 N.H. 362 (2020). In that decision, the Supreme Court vacated the BTLA’s prior dismissal of the Taxpayers’ property tax abatement appeals and remanded for the BTLA to further consider whether the Taxpayers omitted their personal signatures and certifications on their tax abatement applications to respondent Town of Bartlett (Town), “due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.” On remand, the BTLA found that “based on the facts presented, the Taxpayers [had] not met their burden of proving the omission of their signatures and certifications was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect,” and again dismissed their appeals. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Keith R. Mader 2000 Revocable Trust, et al." on Justia Law
Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham
Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law
Appeal of Town of Chester et al.
Petitioners, the Towns of Chester and Hudson (collectively, Towns), appealed a Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA) order granting respondent Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (PSNH) abatements of taxes assessed against its property located in Chester for tax years 2014 and 2016 and in Hudson for tax years 2014, 2015, and 2016. PSNH submitted an appraisal report prepared by its expert, Concentric Energy Advisors, Inc., setting forth the expert’s opinion of the aggregate fair market value of PSNH’s taxable property located in each municipality for each tax year. Two appraisers employed by the Towns’ expert, George E. Sansoucy, P.E., LLC (GES), used a substantially similar methodology in appraising the fair market value of the land interests. The BTLA compared the equalized market value to the aggregate assessed value for each municipality for each tax year. The BTLA concluded that an assessment was unreasonable and granted an abatement when it determined that the difference between the equalized market value and the aggregate assessed value was greater than five percent. The Towns argued that because both GES and Concentric relied upon the assessed value of PSNH’s land interests in reaching their opinions of fair market value, the values that the BTLA incorporated into its analysis “were already proportionate” and “should not have had the equalization ratio[s] applied to them.” The BTLA denied the Towns’ motion for reconsideration, noting that it based its calculations upon values that “were supplied by the [Towns] themselves in the stipulations agreed to by them” and adopting the arguments PSNH raised in its objection. Finding no reversible error in the BTLA's order, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Town of Chester et al." on Justia Law
Short v. LaPlante
Plaintiffs Chad and Kelly Short (Buyers) appealed a superior court order denying their requests for specific performance and attorney’s fees and costs in connection with an alleged contract to purchase real estate from defendants John and Lori LaPlante, as trustees of the LaPlante Family Revocable Trust (Sellers). Buyers visited the Sellers’ Concord home for the first time on May 24, 2018, and that day submitted an offer to purchase it for $690,000. After negotiations, but before the purchase and sale agreement (P&S) was executed, the parties agreed that the Buyers would purchase the property for $690,000 and would submit $10,000 as a deposit, and the Sellers would furnish up to $7,250 in closing costs. On June 1, the Sellers located a property in Stratham that they thought would suit their needs. They submitted an offer on that property on June 3. Also, on June 3, the parties fully executed the final P&S for the Sellers’ Concord property, which included the following provision (the Disputed Provision): “This agreement is subject to Sellers finding suitable housing no later than July 14, 2018.” On June 5, the Sellers sent an email apologizing to the Buyers “for wanting to cancel the P&S . . . at this stage.“ Buyers interpreted the Sellers’ attempt to cancel the P&S as an indication the Sellers received a better offer; Buyers subsequently brought this action. The trial court found that the P&S was not “a binding and enforceable contract” because “[t]here was no meeting of the minds regarding the Disputed Provision.” The Buyers unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, and this appeal followed. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the superior court’s order and affirmed. View "Short v. LaPlante" on Justia Law