Demarest v. Town of UnderhillAnnotate this Case
The Town of Underhill appealed a trial court order that affirmed a decision of the County Road Commissioners requiring the Town to maintain a segment of Town Highway 26 (TH 26), a Class 4 highway. TH 26 has existed, in some form, for nearly 150 years. In 2001, the Town sought to reclassify a segment of TH 26 between Irish Settlement Road and Pleasant Valley Road as a legal trail, and the remainder of the roadway as a Class 4 highway. Following protracted litigation, these changes became effective in June 2010, and TH 26 became part of the Town’s six miles of Class 4 highways. Prior to the reclassification of TH 26, the Town performed periodic maintenance and repair work to both the roadway and the twenty-two culverts that were installed along and under TH 26 over the past thirty years. Although the ditches along TH 26 do not appear to have been maintained since 2010, the Town has continued to do some work, primarily the addition of base material to the roadway. Appellees David Demarest, Jeffrey Moulton, and Jonathan Fuller owned property on TH 26 in the Town of Underhill. Appellees Fuller and Demarest resided at their properties full time, while two additional residents along the road were part-time residents. In 2012, appellees filed a notice of insufficiency pursuant to 19 V.S.A. 971 requesting maintenance of TH 26, which had been largely deferred following the roadway reclassification. The Town denied appellees’ allegations, asserting that TH 26 was being maintained to the extent required by the necessity of the Town, the public good, and the convenience of the inhabitants of the Town. Appellees then brought an action for the appointment of County Road Commissioners pursuant to 19 V.S.A. 971 et seq. to compel the Town to undertake repairs of TH 26. Specifically, appellees sought repairs and maintenance to drainage, culverts, and the road surface, so as to make it reasonably safe and accessible for appellees’ use as residents of the Town. The Town contended on appeal that the trial court misconstrued and incorrectly applied the statutory provisions for the maintenance of Class 4 roads and erroneously established its own maintenance standard. After review, the Supreme Court agreed with the Town and reversed.