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In mixed decision, judge clears prominent Lancaster estate case to continue | Local news

In a mixed decision last week, a Coos Superior judge allowed the prosecution of a prominent three-year estate case filed by a Lancaster couple against the state.

The case stems from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation’s replacement of the Roger’s Rangers Bridge on Route 2 that spans the Connecticut River at the Vermont border.

In July 2018, Shane and Trina Beattie, who agreed a new bridge was needed, declined the state’s offer to buy part of their land, arguing that taking their land was not necessary. for the construction of the new bridge.

Under eminent domain, the state in September 2018 filed a statement of claim with the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals to cash nearly an acre of the Beattie property as the DOT continued its plan to relocate the 70 highway. feet upstream from the river, closer to their property.

In November 2018, the Beatties filed a preliminary objection with the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals, later transferred to the superior court, to request an inquiry and a hearing to address concerns about the new bridge amending tax regimes. flooding along this stretch of the river. and the questions they argued had not been answered by the state.

In 2019, the superior court dismissed their petition, ruling that the 2014 DOT letter regarding the public hearing informed the Beatties of the project and invited comment.

Shane Beattie had raised concerns about the location of the new bridge impacting the river when the high water came and said it would make him vulnerable to flooding on his property.

The Beatties argued that the taking of their land was unnecessary, that the state had not sufficiently analyzed the net public benefit of the taking of the land, and that the state could have acquired a temporary building easement on their land. to place the new bridge in the previous location.

Following the judge’s denial in the superior court, the Beatties appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, which in November 2020 ruled in their favor and referred the case to superior court.

The state subsequently filed a new motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the Beatties had not made a claim on which legal recourse could be granted, which the Beatties objected to.

The court held a hearing on October 27.

On December 22, Judge Lawrence MacLeod issued a 9-page order granting the state’s motion to dismiss the Beatties’ claim that the taking of the land was unnecessary, but allowed the claims of the Beatties’ lack of net public benefit to proceed when he dismissed the state’s motion to dismiss this part of the case.

“Contrary to their argument about the need for the bridge, the Beatties are not proposing an amendment to the take,” MacLeod said. “Rather, they challenge the state taking statement with respect to the net public benefit of the bridge, which rightly falls under a preliminary objection … The tribunal, like the Beatties, recognizes that there is a public objective for the bridge, thus indicating a benefit to the public.

“However, taken to be true, the Beatties’ claims point to significant and permanent damage to their land as well as to the land surrounding it,” the judge wrote. As the New Hampshire Supreme Court noted in the original appeal of this case, “private property rights are fundamental rights under the New Hampshire Constitution.” The court held that, taking into account this fundamental right, the injured parties are entitled to a de novo [from the beginning] trial on their preliminary objection. In view of the considerable importance the court places on private property rights, the permanent damage caused by the construction of the bridge would outweigh the benefits it provides.

While the state argued that an evidentiary hearing is not required before a court rules on a preliminary objection, MacLeod said it is true that the court is not required to have a such hearing, he will postpone any decision on the matter for a hearing until the Beatties have a chance to respond to the Dec. 22 order.

A structuring conference is scheduled for February 9 at the Superior Court of Coos.

John Frizzell, of Waystack Frizzell Trial Lawyers and attorney for the Beatties, said his clients’ cases were moving in a positive direction.

“We are pleased that Justice MacLeod has dismissed the state’s motion to dismiss,” Frizzell said Wednesday. “And Mr. Beattie hired an engineer to determine whether or not the state’s conclusion that there will be no flood impact on his property is correct. We do not yet have a report from this expert. This is where the rubber will hit the road if it is determined that there will be negative impacts on both the Beattie property and adjacent properties and if the condition’s conclusion is in error.

The Beatties delayed hiring the engineer until the Supreme Court ruling, he said.

Currently, with the report not yet completed and the matter not yet to be brought to trial or resolution, damages may be awarded to the Beatties to compensate for the taking of their land and any negative impact of flooding is undetermined.

“What’s frustrating is that the state never asked the Beatties where historically it floods on their property, in other words, to have a baseline of where it would flood in the past, “said Frizzell.

When their engineer got involved, determining that baseline became the first task, and that’s one of the issues the Beatties plan to bring to the judge, he said.