Sheehan v. New Hampshire Dept. of Resources & Economic Dev.Annotate this Case
Petitioner Kevin P. Sheehan appealed a superior court order in favor of Respondent New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) on his request for declaratory, injunctive, and other relief. In 2008, Petitioner purchased property in Derry which abuts Jackman Road, a class VI town road and not in good condition. The Property is connected to Warner Hill Road by a .44 mile tract of land that is under DRED’s control as part of its statewide trail system. Before purchasing the Property, Petitioner understood that the State claimed ownership of a small corridor adjacent to his land and that a gate blocked non-recreational motor vehicle access. After purchasing the property, Petitioner filed this equity action seeking to bar DRED from prohibiting or interfering with non-recreational motor vehicle access over the portion of the corridor separating his property from Warner Hill Road. Ultimately the superior court determined that the State had acquired title in fee simple to the corridor through a highway layout and that the portion of the corridor abutting the property was not a "public road" because the State has never "constructed" on it. On appeal, Petitioner contended that the trial court erred when it determined that the State owned the corridor in fee simple and when it found that the corridor was not a public road. Upon review, the Supreme Court determined that DRED did not bar Petitioner’s access over the corridor. Rather, DRED prohibited one form of access, non-recreational motor vehicle travel. Accordingly, the Court held that the trial court did not err in concluding that DRED has not limited "the public’s right to pass over existing public roads" pursuant to state law.