In re Town Hwy. No. 20 of Town of Georgia, No. 02-389.

Docket NºNo. 02-389.
Citation834 A.2d 17
Case DateJuly 23, 2003
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Vermont

834 A.2d 17

In re TOWN HIGHWAY NO. 20 OF the TOWN OF GEORGIA

No. 02-389.

Supreme Court of Vermont.

July 23, 2003.

Motion for Reargument Denied September 19, 2003.


834 A.2d 19
Present: AMESTOY, C.J., DOOLEY, JOHNSON and SKOGLUND, JJ., and FREDERIC W. ALLEN, C.J. (Ret.) Specially Assigned

ENTRY ORDER

¶ 1. Defendant Town of Georgia (the Town) and intervenors Gregory and Janet Bechard (Intervenors) appeal from a superior court decision ordering the Town to allow petitioner John Rhodes (Petitioner) to improve and maintain a section of Town Highway # 20 (TH # 20) and ordering Intervenors to remove all personal property they had stored in that section of the TH # 20 right of way. Intervenors separately appeal from denial of their cross-claim that they had acquired title to an acre of Petitioner's land by adverse possession and had acquired a prescriptive easement over a road, called the "Pent Road," through Petitioner's property. On appeal, the Town and Intervenors make several procedural and substantive claims. We affirm.

¶ 2. The first part of this dispute revolves around the border between Petitioner's farm and Intervenors' farm, both

834 A.2d 20
located in the Town of Georgia. Much about this border is disputed, including whether TH # 20 constitutes a portion of this border. Intervenors claim that the road does not abut Petitioner's property because it runs to the south, not to the north, of Intervenors' house. The trial court, however, found that a 600-foot section of TH # 20 formed a border between the northwest corner of Intervenors' property and the southeast portion of Petitioner's property, finally meeting with Bradley Hill Road to form a "T" intersection

¶ 3. On June 10, 1970, the selectboard of the Town decided to hold a hearing on whether to discontinue a portion of TH # 20 and legally reclassify that section from a town highway to a trail.1 At the hearing, held on June 30, 1970, the selectboard considered the proposed reclassification. Ten months later, on May 10, 1971, the selectboard voted to reclassify a portion of TH # 20 as a trail. Intervenors claim that the portion of TH # 20 at issue in this case was exactly that part of TH # 20 that was reclassified. The trial court, however, found many discrepancies between the selectboard's reclassification order and the actual portion of TH # 20 in dispute, stating that "the 1971 order does not describe an existing section of TH # 20." Additionally, the Town was required to give notice of the hearing to all persons owning or interested in land abutting the highway — which included Petitioner's father, H.C. Rhodes, who owned the farm at the time — via registered mail. 19 V.S.A. § 531 (1968), repealed by 1985, No. 269 (Adj. Sess.). The parties dispute whether or not Petitioner's father received proper notice, although the superior court found that he had not.

¶ 4. In 1995, Petitioner formally asked the selectboard to determine the location of TH # 20 in the southeastern area where it abuts his farm and requested that the Town reconsider the 1971 selectboard reclassification of the road as a trail. He also sought permission to make improvements to the roadway in order to allow vehicles to safely cross TH # 20 from Bradley Hill Road and to make the road safe for transit over rock ledges located in the TH # 20 right of way. Additionally, Petitioner sought an order requiring Intervenors to remove the fenced gate they had erected in the middle of TH # 20 and the old farm equipment and wood they had stored in the highway right of way that blocked access to the Pent Road. On April 18, 1997, the selectboard denied all of Petitioner's requests.

¶ 5. Petitioner then appealed the decisions of the Town of Georgia selectboard to the Franklin County Superior Court, pursuant to 19 V.S.A. §§ 34 and 740. Intervenors sought and were granted leave to intervene. On June 26, 2002, the superior court found that TH # 20 was legally laid out in 1813 and that the reclassification in 1971 was void. The court also found that the selectboard had acted unconstitutionally in denying Petitioner's requests and ordered the Town to allow Petitioner to improve TH # 20 and to direct Intervenors to remove their personal property from the road. Intervenors and the Town appealed the trial court's decision and the Town filed a cross-appeal.

¶ 6. We first address Intervenors' claims. Intervenors' first claim on appeal is that the trial court erred in finding that the portion of TH # 20 that runs along the northwestern border of their property was laid out in 1813 in compliance with the then-applicable law. Intervenors claim that the law in effect at the time TH # 20

834 A.2d 21
was laid out was a 1782 law that required a highway to be laid out by "chain and compass." See "An Act Directing the Laying Out of Highways," Oct. 21, 1782, reprinted in 13 State Papers of Vermont 129-30 (J.A. Williams ed., 1965). Intervenors' charge that because the original surveyors described the highway in "rods and degrees," and not "chain and compass," they did not substantially comply with the statute in effect at the time and thus never officially created a highway. From this proposition they argue that TH # 20 should be laid out to the south of their house, and not to the north. We disagree

¶ 7. We have difficulty understanding why Intervenors' argument should lead to the conclusion that TH # 20 should be located to the south of their house, rather than to the north. Nevertheless, for purposes of this appeal, we will address the merits of their argument. The trial court held that because "chains" refers to a measurement of four rods and degrees are determined by a compass, the description of the highway substantially complied with the statute, and thus TH # 20 was correctly laid out in 1813. We agree with the superior court that the highway was correctly laid out in 1813. We find, however, that the governing law when TH # 20 was laid out was an 1808 law, not the 1782 law cited by Intervenors. That 1808 law required "every highway or road which shall in future be laid out or opened, shall be actually surveyed ... ascertaining the breadth, course and distance of such road." 1 Laws of Vermont, ch. XLV, § 1, at 446 (1808); see also Kelly v. Town of Barnard, 155 Vt. 296, 302, 583 A.2d 614, 618 (1990) (in 1816 and 1817, the procedure for establishment of a public highway was governed by 1 Laws of Vermont, ch. XLV, § 1). Because TH # 20 was described in rods and degrees, a measurement that conveys the "breadth, course, and distance" of the highway, it was properly laid out in 1813. We do not need to determine whether "rods and degrees" is equal to "chain and compass" because the applicable law in 1813 does not require a measurement in chain and compass. See Samplid Enters. v. First Vt. Bank, 165 Vt. 22, 28, 676 A.2d 774, 778 (1996) (this Court may affirm a lower court judgment where...

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5 practice notes
  • Rhodes v. Unnamed Town Highway of Ga. (In re Town Highway No. 20), Nos. 10–100
    • United States
    • March 23, 2012
    ...status of TH # 20 and the denial of neighbors' claimed easement. In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 2003 VT 76, 175 Vt. 626, 834 A.2d 17 (mem.) [hereinafter Rhodes I ]. With regard to the constitutional violation, this Court stated: The Town's sole contention is that it did not u......
  • In re Montagne, Case No. 08-10916 (Bankr.Vt. 2/8/2010), Case No. 08-10916.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Connecticut
    • February 8, 2010
    ...from delay alone, but from delay that works disadvantage to another." In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 175 Vt. 626, 629, 834 A.2d 17, 23 Page 11 2. The Parties' Arguments BBI states that the Debtor does not assert any prejudice he suffered due to BBI's forbearance of colle......
  • Benson v. Hodgdon, No. 09-076.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • February 24, 2010
    ...highway ... by anyone by possession or occupation."5 See In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 2003 VT 76, ¶ 20, 175 Vt. 626, 834 A.2d 17 (town highway land "exempt from claims of adverse possession"). We have noted that even when a right-of-way has lain dormant and a......
  • Austin v. Town of Middlesex, No. 08-428.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 27, 2009
    ...of Sutton, 93 Vt. 102, 103, 106 A. 583, 584 (1919)); see In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 2003 VT 76, ¶¶ 6-7, 175 Vt. 626, 834 A.2d 17 (mem.); In re Bill, 168 Vt. 439, 442, 724 A.2d 444, 446 (1998). When interpreting any law, this Court begins by examining the plain language of......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Rhodes v. Unnamed Town Highway of Ga. (In re Town Highway No. 20), Nos. 10–100
    • United States
    • March 23, 2012
    ...status of TH # 20 and the denial of neighbors' claimed easement. In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 2003 VT 76, 175 Vt. 626, 834 A.2d 17 (mem.) [hereinafter Rhodes I ]. With regard to the constitutional violation, this Court stated: The Town's sole contention is that it did not u......
  • In re Montagne, Case No. 08-10916 (Bankr.Vt. 2/8/2010), Case No. 08-10916.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — District of Connecticut
    • February 8, 2010
    ...from delay alone, but from delay that works disadvantage to another." In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 175 Vt. 626, 629, 834 A.2d 17, 23 Page 11 2. The Parties' Arguments BBI states that the Debtor does not assert any prejudice he suffered due to BBI's forbearance of colle......
  • Benson v. Hodgdon, No. 09-076.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • February 24, 2010
    ...highway ... by anyone by possession or occupation."5 See In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 2003 VT 76, ¶ 20, 175 Vt. 626, 834 A.2d 17 (town highway land "exempt from claims of adverse possession"). We have noted that even when a right-of-way has lain dormant and a......
  • Austin v. Town of Middlesex, No. 08-428.
    • United States
    • Vermont United States State Supreme Court of Vermont
    • October 27, 2009
    ...of Sutton, 93 Vt. 102, 103, 106 A. 583, 584 (1919)); see In re Town Highway No. 20 of Town of Georgia, 2003 VT 76, ¶¶ 6-7, 175 Vt. 626, 834 A.2d 17 (mem.); In re Bill, 168 Vt. 439, 442, 724 A.2d 444, 446 (1998). When interpreting any law, this Court begins by examining the plain language of......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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