New Hampshire Municipal Association
New Hampshire Municipal Association

Court Update

Resident Taxpayer Status Is Not Enough for Standing to Sue Town

Arnold Goldstein v. Town of Bedford & a.
No. 2005-598, 11/22/2006

A resident and taxpayer took issue with his town when the zoning administrator decided against pursing enforcement action against a property owner who allegedly violated the town’s zoning ordinance governing the merger of two non-conforming lots. The resident filed an appeal with the ZBA challenging the decision of the zoning administrator.

At the hearing before the ZBA, the resident acknowledged that he had no interest in the zoning enforcement matter different from any other citizen in the town and that he was “just a Bedford resident who would like to see the zoning ordinance enforced.” The ZBA denied the administrative appeal on the grounds that the resident lacked standing as an aggrieved party as required by RSA 676:5, I. The resident appealed, arguing that because he is a resident and taxpayer in the town, he has standing to appeal a decision of the zoning administrator not to enforce a local zoning ordinance.

The ZBA correctly found that the resident taxpayer did not have standing to appeal the decision of the zoning administrator. In order to appeal a decision of an administrative officer to either the ZBA or to superior court, RSA 676:5, I requires that the applicant must be a “person aggrieved.” Prior case law dictates that in order to be a “person aggrieved” the plaintiff must demonstrate some direct definite interest in the outcome of the proceedings, and standing will not be extended to all persons in the municipality who feel injured by a local administrator’s decision.

The plaintiff in this case conceded that he did not qualify as an aggrieved person as required by the statute, but he argued that he nonetheless has standing to seek mandamus relief to require the town to enforce the zoning ordinance. (Mandamus is a writ to compel a government officer to perform a specific act.) The Court disagreed, finding that since the plaintiff does not have standing to appeal the decision of the administrative officer to the ZBA, he also did not have standing to bring a mandamus action. To rule otherwise, the Court observed, would allow the plaintiff to circumvent the clear intent of the legislature to limit standing for zoning appeals to persons aggrieved.

Please be advised that the foregoing case summary is based upon a Supreme Court slip opinion. Slip opinions are subject to change following motions for rehearing and/or motions for reconsideration. The Court may also modify the opinion without motion. The final version of the Court’s opinion is that which appears in the New Hampshire Reports.

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