Bauman v. Ross Ross v. Bauman Abbot v. Ross Ross v. Armes

Decision Date10 May 1897
Docket NumberNos. 631,633,634,632,s. 631
Citation42 L.Ed. 270,17 S.Ct. 966,167 U.S. 548
PartiesBAUMAN et al. v. ROSS et al. ROSS et al. v. BAUMAN et al. ABBOT v. ROSS et al. ROSS et al. v. ARMES et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 548-549 intentionally omitted] A. S. Worthington, for Ross and others.

Nathaniel Wilson and Chapin Brown, for Bauman and others.

W. L. Coles, for Armes and others.

Mr. Justice GRAY delivered the opinion of the court.

The original plan of the city of Washington, established in 1791, under the direction of President Washington, and by authority of congress, with its symmetrical arrangements of squares and lots, streets, avenues, circles, and public reservations, did not extend north of Boundary street, or affect the roads and highways in the rest of the District of Columbia.

By an act of 1809, the proprietor of any lot or square in the city of Washington was authorized to have it subdivided upon submitting a plat thereof to the surveyor of the District of Columbia, to be certified and recorded in his office, upon his being satisfied that its dimensions corresponded with the original lots. Act Jan. 12, 1809, c. 8 (2 Stat. 511); Rev. St. D. C. §§ 477-481.

At a comparatively recent period, owners of lands outside the northern boundary of the city of Washington from time to time laid out streets over their lands, and made and recorded subdivisions thereof, as they pleased, often not conforming to each other, or to the general plan of the city of Washington; and congress at last found it necessary to take measures to have the streets throughout the District of Columbia laid out upon a uniform plan.

Congress accordingly, by the act of August 27, 1888 (chapter 916), entitled 'An act to regulate the subdivision of land within the District of Columbia,' authorized the commissioners of the District of Columbia to make and publish general orders regulating the platting and subdividing of all lands and grounds in the District, and required any plat of subdivision made in pursuance of such orders to be approved by them before being admitted to record in the office of the surveyor, and, in section 5, provided that 'no future subdivision of land in the District of Columbia, without the limits of the cities of Washington and Georgetown, shall be recorded in the surveyor's office of the said District, unless made in conformity with the general plan of the city of Washington.' 25 Stat. 451; Comp. St. D. C. c. 58, §§ 39-43.

It was in order the more completely to carry out the same object, that congress passed the act of March 2, 1893 (chapter 197), entitled 'An act to provide a permanent system of highways in that part of the District of Columbia lying outside of cities,' the constitutionality of which is now impugned. 27 Stat. 532.

The parts of the act chiefly attacked are sections 11 and 15. But the record discloses such differences of opinion in the courts below, and the solution of the questions involved depends so much upon a view of the act as a whole, that it will be convenient to state its various provisions somewhat fully.

The first five sections of the act relate to the making, the recording, and the effect of plans for the extension of a permanent system of highways, in conformity, as nearly as practicable, with the general plan of the city of Washington, over all that part of the District of Columbia which lies outside the cities of Washington and Georgetown.

The act begins by enacting that 'the commissioners of the District of Columbia are hereby authorized and directed to prepare a plan for the extension of a permanent system of highways over all that portion of said district not included within the limits of the cities of Washington and Georgetown. Said system shall be made as nearly in conformity with the street plan of the city of Washington as the commissioners may deem advisable and practicable.'

By section 2, 'the said plans shall be prepared from time to time in sections, each of which shall cover such an area as the commissioners may deem advisable to include therein; and it shall be the duty of the commissioners, in preparing such plans by sections, as far as may be practicable, to select first such areas as are covered by existing suburban subdivisions not in conformity with the general plan of the city of Washington. The commissioners, in making such plans, shall adopt and conform to any then existing subdivisions which shall have been made in compliance with the provisions of the act' of August 27, 1888 (chapter 916), 'or which shall, in the opinion of the commissioners, conform to the general plan of the city of Washington.' 'Whenever the plan of any such section shall have been adopted by the commissioners, they shall cause a map of the same to be made, showing the boundaries and dimensions of and number of square feet in the streets, avenues and roads established by them therein; the boundaries and dimensions of and number of square feet in each, if any, of the then existing highways in the area covered by such map; and the boundaries and dimensions of and number of square feet in each lot of any then existing subdivisions owned by private persons; and containing such explanations as shall be necessary to a complete understanding of such map. In making such maps, the commissioners are further authorized to lay out, at the instersections of the principal avenues and streets thereof, circles or other reservations corresponding in number and dimensions with those now existing at such intersections in the city of Washington.' A copy of such map, duly certified by the commissioners, is to be delivered to a commission created by this act, composed of the secretary of war, the secretary of the interior, and the chief of engineers, for the time being, who may adopt or alter it, or make a new map instead; and the map which that commission shall adopt and approve in writing is to be delivered to the commissioners of the District of Columbia, and be at once filed and recorded in the office of the surveyor of the District of Columbia.

The same section proceeds: 'And after any such map shall have been so recorded, no further subdivision of any land included therein shall be admitted to record in the office of the surveyor of said district, or in the office of the recorder of deeds thereof, unless the same be first approved by the commissioners, and be in conformity to such map. Nor shall it be lawful, when any such map shall have been so recorded, for the commissioners of the District of Columbia, or any other officer or person representing the United States or the District of Columbia, to thereafter improve, repair or assume any responsibility in regard to any abandoned highway within the area covered by such map, or to accept, improve, repair or assume any responsibility in regard to any highway that any owner of land in such area shall thereafter attempt to lay out or establish, unless such landowner shall first have submitted to the commissioners a plat of such proposed highway, and the commissioners shall have found the same to be in conformity to such map, and shall have approved such plat, and caused it to be recorded in the office of said surveyor.'

The section concludes with a provision that the commissioners of the District of Columbia, 'in order to enable the said commissioners to proceed speedily and efficiently to carry out the purposes of this act,' may, with the approval of the commission before named, appoint two civilian assistants to the engineer commissioner, who, with him, under the direction of the commissioners, shall have immediate charge of the work to be done under this act.

Section 3 provides that, 'when any such map shall have been recorded as aforesaid in the office of the surveyor of the district, it shall be lawful for the owner of any land included within such map to adopt the subdivision, thereby made, by a reference thereto and to this section in any deed or will which he shall thereafter make; and when any deed or will containing any such reference shall have been made and recorded in the proper office, it shall have the same effect as though the grantor or grantors in such deed, or the maker of such will, had made such subdivision and recorded the same in compliance with law.'

By section 4, 'for the purpose of making surveys for such plans and maps, the commissioners, and their agents and employees necessarily engaged in making such surveys, are authorized to enter upon any lands through or on which any projected highway or reservation may run or lie.' And by section 5, 'the commissioners of the District of Columbia are authorized to name all streets, avenues, alleys and reservations laid out or adopted under the provisions of this act.'

Then follow sections 6 to 14, inclusive, containing provisions for the condemnation of a permanent right of way for the public, and for the assessment of compensation or damages to the owners of lands by a jury of seven men, as follows:

By section 6, 'within thirty days after any such map shall have been recorded as aforesaid, which shall alter any highway or highways in any then existing subdivision in the area included in such map, or which shall dispense with any highway or highways, or any part thereof, in any such subdivision, the commissioners of the District of Columbia shall make application to the supreme court of the District of Columbia, holding a special term as a district court of the United States, by written petition, praying the condemnation of a permanent right of way for the public over all the land lying within the limits of such subdivision, not already owned by the United States or the District of Columbia or dedicated to public use as a highway, which shall be included within the highways or reservations laid out by the commissioners and indicated on such map. Upon the filing of such petition, the said court in special term shall proceed to condemn a permanent right of way for the public over said...

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