Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs owned approximately 0.3 acres on the shore of Lake Waukewan in New Hampton. Per the town’s zoning ordinance, the property was subject to a twenty-foot side yard setback and a thirty-five-foot front setback along the road. It was also subject to a fifty-foot setback along the lake shore pursuant to the Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act. The property was sloped and contained a house, a deck, and three plastic, movable sheds used to store various home and recreational items. Plaintiffs sought to replace the plastic sheds with a ten-by-sixteen-foot permanent shed, which they planned to construct on the western side of the property. The proposal would have placed the permanent shed within the twenty-foot side setback. Accordingly, plaintiffs sought a variance from the side setback requirement. They appealed when the Superior Court upheld the denial of their requested variance by the Town of New Hampton Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). They argued the proposed shed would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood because several other properties in the neighborhood had outbuildings within the setbacks. They maintained the existence of these outbuildings on neighboring properties, along with the lack of objection from the western abutters and the town fire chief, demonstrated the proposed shed posed no threat to the public health, safety, or welfare. The superior court concluded that the ZBA’s denial of plaintiffs’ variance on the public interest and spirit of the ordinance criteria was not unreasonable or unlawful. Given the evidence before the ZBA, and the considerable deference reflected in its standard of review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court could not find the superior court erred in concluding that the ZBA acted reasonably and lawfully in finding that plaintiffs’ requested variance would violate the spirit of the ordinance and would be contrary to the public interest. View "Perreault v. Town of New Hampton" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Secretary of State transmitted a certified copy of a resolution of the Governor and Executive Council requesting an opinion of the New Hampshire Supreme Court regarding House Bill 1264, an act to amend the definition of “resident” and “residence” in RSA 21:6 and 21:6-a. The Supreme Court concluded the request was proper for it to issue an advisory opinion. The problem that gave rise to the proposed change in the law of residency set forth in HB 1264 was that the definitions were interpreted to impose requirements that went beyond the traditional definition of “domicile. The result – counterintuitive as it may be – is that, notwithstanding the ‘resident’ and ‘residence’ labels used in their titles, to satisfy the current definitions… requires a degree of connection to a place that is greater than that required to be domiciled in this state for voting purposes pursuant to RSA 654:1, I (2016).” To correct this problem, HB 1264 removed the words “for the indefinite future” from the text of RSA 21:6 and :6-a. If HB 1264 became law, out-of-state students who come to New Hampshire to attend a postsecondary institution or others, who were able to establish a “sufficient attachment to the state” to satisfy the requirements of domicile, would be entitled to vote in New Hampshire. “There is nothing unfair or unconstitutional about state laws that require persons to make this choice.” View "Opinion of the Justices (Definition of Resident and Residence)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Richard Polonsky appealed, and defendant Town of Bedford (Town) cross-appealed a superior court order on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment as to plaintiff’s petition for injunctive and declaratory relief and to quiet title to residential property that the Town acquired by tax deed in 2011. In 2008, plaintiff inherited residential property in Bedford New Hampshire that, at that time, was assessed at approximately $300,000. Because plaintiff failed to pay his real estate taxes in 2008, 2009, and 2010, tax liens were imposed on his property for each of those years. The Town notified plaintiff before each lien was imposed. In April 2011, the Town notified plaintiff that a tax deed was to be issued. In May 2011, a tax deed for the property was issued to the Town. Plaintiff continued to reside on the property without paying taxes. In 2013, plaintiff offered to pay back taxes, but requested the Town forgive additional charges. In July 2013, the Town rejected plaintiff’s request and decided to sell the property. In December 2013, the Town notified plaintiff of its decision to sell the property and of his right to repurchase it. Plaintiff received that notice, but did not act on it. In April 2015, the Town again notified plaintiff of its intent to sell the property and of his right to repurchase. Plaintiff proposed he purchase the property for only the amount he owed in taxes and that the Town waive the remaining amounts. The Town rejected the plaintiff’s proposal. The Town then asserted that plaintiff’s right to repurchase the property had terminated because more than three years had passed since the tax deed had been recorded. Shortly thereafter, plaintiff brought this lawsuit. On appeal, plaintiff argued the trial court erred in ruling that the Town’s failure to provide timely statutory notice to him of its July 2013 “offering for sale,” as required by RSA 80:89, I (2012), did not invalidate the tax deed. Plaintiff also argued the trial court erred by failing to find that the penalty the Town may recover pursuant to RSA 80:90, I(f) (2012) (amended 2016) constituted “double taxation” in violation of the State Constitution. In its cross-appeal, the Town argued the trial court misinterpreted the three-year period set forth in RSA 80:89, VII (2012) when it determined that, although the tax deed was recorded more than three years ago, plaintiff could bring a claim for any amount the Town recovered from the property’s eventual sale in excess of the outstanding taxes, interest, costs, and statutory penalty owed (“excess proceeds”). The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that the tax deed was invalid, reversed its ruling construing the statutes as permitting plaintiff to recover excess proceeds from any future sale of the property, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Polonsky v. Town of Bedford" on Justia Law

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This case presented two questions arising out of the operation of the Suncook Wastewater Treatment Facility (the “Facility”) in Allenstown, New Hampshire, for the New Hampshire Supreme Court's review. First, under an intermunicipal agreement, must defendant Town of Allenstown, share any of the profits generated from septage haulers who discharge their waste at the Facility with the plaintiff, Town of Pembroke? And second, after Allenstown used a portion of those profits to increase the Facility’s wastewater treatment capacity, must Allenstown allocate any of that increased capacity to Pembroke? Because the Supreme Court, as did the Superior Court, answered both questions “no,” the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Town of Pembroke v. Town of Allenstown" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Nicole Collins appealed a New Hampshire Personnel Appeals Board (board) decision upholding the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) decision to dismiss her from employment. Prior to her termination, she was given letters of warning in April, October, and November 2015, for failing to meet various work standards and working unauthorized overtime. On April 7, 2016, pursuant to New Hampshire Administrative Rules, petitioner attended an “intent to discipline” meeting with her regional manager and the chief of operations. At this meeting, the regional manager read from prepared notes outlining evidence, including the precise case files, dates, and instances, that she believed supported a decision to dismiss petitioner. Petitioner had an opportunity to refute this evidence at the meeting. According to petitioner, at the meeting, she also requested the documentation that HHS was relying upon in making its decision to terminate her, but HHS did not provide her with the documents at that time. On April 20, HHS issued a letter of dismissal, which included over 100 pages of evidence supporting the decision. Petitioner appealed this decision to the board. In her appeal to the board, petitioner argued HHS violated Per 1002.08(d) and the New Hampshire Supreme Court's decision in Appeal of Boulay, 142 N.H. 626 (1998), when HHS did not provide her with the documents to support its dismissal decision at the meeting. The board conducted a hearing and found that petitioner’s dismissal was lawful. The Supreme Court, after its review, determined petitioner failed to demonstrate that the board’s affirmation of HHS’ dismissal decision was unreasonable or unlawful, and affirmed. View "Appeal of Nicole Collins" on Justia Law

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Appellants, Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC (Algonquin) and Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy (Eversource), appealed a New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) order dismissing Eversource’s petition for approval of a proposed contract for natural gas capacity, as well as a program to set parameters for the release of capacity and the sale of liquefied natural gas made available to electric generators, and/or an associated tariff. Appellees, NextEra Energy Resources, LLC (NextEra), Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), and the Office of the Consumer Advocate (OCA), appeared in opposition to this appeal. In denying Eversource’s petition, the PUC first ruled “that the overriding purpose of the Restructuring Statute is to introduce competition to the generation of electricity” with the “long-term results [to] be lower prices and a more productive economy.” The PUC then further ruled that “[t]o achieve that purpose, RSA 374-F:3, III directs the restructuring of the industry, separating generation activities from transmission and distribution activities, and unbundling the rates associated with each of the separate services.” Given these rulings, the PUC concluded that “the basic premise of Eversource’s proposal — having an EDC purchase long-term gas capacity to be used by electric generators — runs afoul of the Restructuring Statute’s functional separation requirement.” The NEw Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed. Pursuant to its plain language, and reading the statute as a whole, the Court discerned the primary intent of the legislature in enacting RSA chapter 374- F was to reduce electricity costs to consumers. The Court disagreed with the PUC’s ruling that the legislature’s “overriding purpose” was “to introduce competition to the generation of electricity.” Rather, as the statute provides, the legislature intended to “harness[ ] the power of competitive markets,” as a means to reduce costs to consumers, not as an end in itself. Likewise, the Court disagreed with the PUC’s ruling that RSA 374-F:3, III directed the “functional separation” of generation services from transmission and distribution services and elevates that single policy principle over the others identified in the statute. Therefore, the Supreme Court held the PUC erred in dismissing Eversource’s petition as a matter of law. In light of its decision, the Court did not address the appellant’s remaining arguments. View "Appeal of Algonquin Gas Transmission, LLC" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Mary Allen, Fred Ward, and other interested parties, appealed the decision of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (Committee) authorizing respondent Antrim Wind Energy, LLC (Antrim Wind), to construct and operate nine wind turbines in the town of Antrim. Antrim Wind originally filed an application (Antrim I) with the Committee in 2012, seeking authorization to construct ten wind turbines. Six of the turbines would be equipped with red flashing aviation obstruction lights. The project also included four miles of new gravel surfaced roads, a joint electrical system, an interconnection substation, and a maintenance building. Antrim Wind further proposed to construct a meteorological tower between turbines three and four to obtain wind data, dedicate 800 acres of land to conservation easements, and install a radar activated lighting system. Antrim I was initially denied; a few years later, Antrim II was filed and ultimately approved by the Committee, finding the second application reflected a “substantial change” from the first application, and as such, would not “have an unreasonable adverse effect on the health, safety, or aesthetics of the region. On appeal, petitioners argued the Committee’s ultimate decision was unreasonable, unlawful, and unjust because: (1) the subcommittee was unlawfully constituted; (2) the denial of Antrim I barred Antrim Wind’s Antrim II application under the doctrine of res judicata as well as the subsequent application doctrine as set forth in Fisher v. City of Dover, 120 N.H. 187 (1980); and (3) there was insufficient evidence in the record to support the subcommittee’s finding that the project proposed in Antrim II would not have an unreasonable adverse impact on aesthetics, public health, and safety. After review of the record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded there was competent evidence to support all of the subcommittee’s factual findings. The subcommittee deliberated about each of these assessments and impacts and determined which experts it found to be more credible. The subcommittee also imposed certain mitigation measures and conditions to address remaining concerns and to ensure regulatory compliance. Accordingly, the Court concluded petitioners failed to show reversible error. View "Appeal of Allen et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioner N. Miles Cook, III, appealed a Wetlands Council (Council) ruling upholding the decision of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) denying his request for a permit to reconstruct and extend his dock on the Piscataqua River. Because DES did not have the benefit of the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s interpretation of the term “need” as used in Env-Wt 302.01(a) and Env-Wt 302.04(a)(1) for determining whether an applicant has met the permit requirements, and because, as the Council noted, the central issue was whether petitioner “could justify the expanded dock proposal based on his ‘need’ to access navigable water on a more frequent basis than he currently experiences with the existing dock,” the Supreme Court vacated DES’s decision and remanded to the Council with instructions to remand to DES for further consideration in light of the definition the Court adopted for the purposes of this opinion. View "Appeal of N. Miles Cook, III" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire/Service Employees’ International Union, Local 1984 (Union), appealed a New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB) order dismissing its unfair labor practice complaint against respondent, the Community College System of New Hampshire (CCSNH). The Union argued the PELRB erred in ruling that CCSNH was not obligated to: (1) bargain over wages for on-campus tutoring services performed by adjunct faculty; and (2) compensate an adjunct faculty member for lost tutoring income resulting from his participation in collective bargaining negotiations. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the tutoring services at issue here were, if anything, more closely related to the normal adjunct faculty members’ duties than the extracurricular activities in Appeal of Berlin Education Association, 125 N.H. 779 (1984) were related to the teachers’ regular duties. "Thus, the result reached in Berlin applies a fortiori to control the outcome here. Either way, the PELRB erred as a matter of law." Because the plain language of RSA 273-A:11, II obligated CCSNH to afford “[a] reasonable number of employees who act as representatives of the bargaining unit . . . a reasonable opportunity to meet” for collective bargaining negotiations “during working hours without loss of compensation or benefits,” the Supreme Court agreed with the Union that CCSNH had to compensate the adjunct faculty for the tutoring hours he missed while attending such negotiations. View "Appeal of State Employees Association/Service Employees International Union, Local 1984" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff XTL-NH, Inc. (XTL), appealed a superior court order that defendant New Hampshire State Liquor Commission (Commission) did not breach its obligation to provide a competitive bidding process that complied with New Hampshire law. The Commission cross-appealed the trial court’s ruling that sovereign immunity did not bar XTL’s promissory estoppel claim. In March 2012, the Commission issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) soliciting 20-year contract proposals for liquor warehousing services from private vendors. An Evaluation Committee (EC) reviewed five proposals and solicited “Best and Final Offers” from four of the vendors, including XTL. Thereafter, the Commission authorized the EC to negotiate a contract with defendant Exel Inc. (Exel), who was ultimately awarded the contract in November 2012. XTL sued the Commission, seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief and attorney’s fees and costs. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Commission, it vacated and remanded to the trial court with instructions to dismiss this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "XTL-NH, Inc. v. New Hampshire State Liquor Com'n" on Justia Law