Rumney School District v. Saad

Right of Way (RoW) dispute between the Rumney School District and David & Elise Saad owners of the abutting parcel behind the Russell School.

Click the link to read our story.

Right of Way dispute summary

On July 13, 2012, the Rumney School Board filed a Petition against the Saads in Grafton Superior Court to stop the Saads from improving their Right of Way (RoW).

Click the link to read the PETITION FOR DECLARATORY JUDGEMENT, TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT INJUNCTIVE RELIEF, AND ASSESSMENT OF ATTORNEY’S FEES

Rumney School District filing

There are a number of false claims stated by the School Board within the Petition.  On August 6, 2012, a letter was presented to the Selectmen documenting the false claims.

Click the link to read the false claims made by the School Board.

False claims stated in injunction

On January 8, 2013, both parties took part in a court ordered mediation.  No agreement was reached.

We further offered to have our surveyor meet with the school district’s surveyor to see if they could work out a resolution.  The School District was not interested in having both surveyors meet and attempt to work out a resolution prior to going into court.  So we ended up in court.

On July 29, 2013, Judge Peter Bornstein (Grafton Superior Court) ordered the following ruling:

  1. The Right of Way (ROW) is 12 feet wide and is located at its current location as depicted on the survey plan completed by Roy Sabourn along with an additional 10 x 15 foot turn out on the west side of the ROW.
  2. An easement, 24 ft wide (includes 6 feet on both sides of the ROW)  exists for winter maintenance,  plowing and storage of snow

Now that the ruling is in, people will attempt to declare who was the winner and who was the loser.  It is my opinion that the only winners were the lawyers and the losers were the taxpayers of Rumney.

Was this legal battle necessary?

Here is a summary of what transpired.

On May 9, 2012, I provided the following notice to the Rumney School District:

 Please be advised that having obtained legal counsel, we believe our deeded Right of Way grants us the right to make necessary improvements to our Right of Way.  In order to establish year-round accessibility to our property for its designated use, including emergency vehicle accessibility, we will be constructing a 12-foot wide gravel travel way along with necessary drainage features at the existing location of our Right of Way.  This work will commence after June 30, 2012.

Note:  In the summer of 2011, the Rumney School District hired Roy Sabourn to survey their property.  Our plan for a 12 foot travel way in its current location matched the current travel way as depicted on the school district’s own survey plan.

On July 13th, 2012, the Rumney School District, objected to my plans and filed an injunction against us stating the following:

  1.  the existing Right of Way (ROW) is eight foot (8′) wide
  2.  if relocation of the ROW is necessary or appropriate, then the Right of Way should be relocated as far from the baseball and soccer fields as is reasonably practicable,  having a width not to exceed ten feet (10).

So the School Board was making the legal claim that the ROW was only 8 feet, even thought their own surveyor (Roy Sabourn) whom the school hired to perform their survey and was also their expert witness at trial showed the ROW as 12 feet on the survey plan.

One Year later on July 24th, 2013, just prior to the court trial, the Rumney School District agreed to the following statement of FACTS:

“The parties agree, through their respective experts, that the current traveled area is 12 feet in width and is in the location as depicted accordingly on plans prepared by both experts.  The parties also agree through their respective experts that winter maintenance and plowing of the traveled area requires an additional six foot winter snowplowing and snow storage area to exist six feet on both sides of the traveled area for purposes of placing and storing plowed snow.

The parties agree that the Saads are able to take reasonable steps to improve the ROW without the necessity of approval from the Rumney School District.”

The Rumney School District started this legal battle by filing an injunction in court to keep me from constructing a 12 foot travel way at the existing location of the ROW as I stated in my notice to the school district on May 9, 2012 .  During the year long legal battle the Rumney School District held the position that I did not have a right to construct a 12 foot travel way at the existing location of the ROW.  Then, immediately prior to trial, the Rumney School District changed their position and agreed to the FACT that the current traveled area is 12 feet in width and is in the location as shown on the survey plan originally prepared by their own surveyor in 2011.

So at trial, the Rumney School District agreed that I had a right to construct the travel way 12 feet in width at its current location as I originally outlined in my letter dated May 9, 2012.

If the Rumney School District had allowed me to construct a 12 foot travel way as outlined in my letter dated May 9, 2012, it would have cost the taxpayers of Rumney nothing.  There would have been no court battle and no expense to the taxpayers of Rumney.

Instead, the taxpayers of Rumney have incurred costs in excess of $ 30, 000.

In the end, I was allowed to do what I stated I would do in my letter to School Board on May 9, 2012.  The only difference is that the  taxpayers of Rumney have now incurred costs in excess of $30, 000 and I had to endure a long legal battle.

So the lingering question remains.  Why was this legal battle necessary?  You be the judge!

My work order authorizing the contractor to construct my Right-of-Way was very explicit with precise measurements to insure the contractor’s work would be in full compliance with the Court Order.  In response to conversations between the contractor and District Agents, the contractor, without my knowledge or authorization, chose to address public safety, public use, and drainage concerns raised by School Board Agents by placing gravel outside the 12 foot right-of-way.  After the contractor’s work was completed, I asked the School Board to convey, in writing, any concerns regarding the width of the gravel travel way.  One and a half years went by before the School Board responded to my request.  Why did they take so long to respond?  Upon receiving notice from the School Board, I met with the contractor to review their objection to the work which was done.  The Contractor and I then attended the next school board meeting to start a dialogue towards an amicable resolution of this matter.  The District made no effort to respond or further communicate with the contractor or myself; instead the School Board chose to file a Contempt motion in Court. I responded to them with a letter.  Additionally, the contractor removed the gravel from outside the right-of-way and also sent them a second letter.  The School Board chose to seek a costly resolution through the Court.

So we went to Court Again!. Once in Court, the Judge dismissed the case.

Even though the case was to be dismissed, I offered to sit down with a representative for the School Board and work to bring a resolution to this matter in order to avoid a continuing legal battle.  They agreed and after about 1 hour of discussions, an agreement was reached.  If only the School Board was willing to engage in a dialogue before choosing to go to court, we could have easily reached an agreement without the costly legal expenses to the taxpayers.

So again, the lingering question remains.

Why was this second legal battle necessary?  You be the judge!

Now the Rumney taxpayers have incurred total costs in excess of $ 41,000.

 

 

 

 

 

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