Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 10, 2018

NH Supreme Court Holds City was Barred by Laches from Bringing Any Potential Action or Claim Based on the Use of the Property

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

 

Amazon Park owned 95 trailer-occupied sites, each of which was fitted with a three-way hook-up to water, electric, and sewer. Trailers were rented on a month-to-month basis, generally without written leases, but occupants were typically permitted to stay as long as they wished so long as they paid rent and abided by park rules. The record reflected that some tenants have resided at Amazon Park for several years. In July 2015, the City issued a written notice of violations and threatened legal action if the Weedens continued to unlawfully permit occupants to maintain permanent residency at Amazon Park. Following this, the Weedens petitioned the court seeking declaratory relief. The trial court granted the Weedens’ petition, and found that the doctrine of laches precluded the City from bringing an enforcement action. In this case, the defendants, the City of Rochester and the City of Rochester Department of Building, Zoning and Licensing Services, appealed an order of the Superior Court awarding a declaratory judgment to John W. Weeden and Debra J. Weeden, d/b/a Amazon Park.
On appeal, the court found that the trial court properly identified and analyzed each of the four factors relevant to whether laches applied: the plaintiff’s knowledge; the defendant’s conduct; the interests to be vindicated; and the resulting prejudice. As to the first two factors, the trial court found that the Weedens’ use of the park had been “open and obvious.” The court also found that the City had “been aware for decades of the occupants’ use of Amazon Park as a residence as far back as the early 1980’s and 1990’s.” With regard to the interests to be vindicated, the court determined that the public’s interest in preventing the continued use of Amazon Park in the manner that it has operated for decades was minimal at best. Finally, as to the resulting prejudice, the court found that an abrupt change in the decades-long use of the property would result in unacceptable and inequitable prejudice. Accordingly, the court found the City was barred from bringing any potential action or claim based on the use of the property.
Weeded v City of Rochester, 2018 WL 3237949 (NH 6/4/2018)


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