The Thorny Issue of Street Names and Address Numbers

C. Christine Fillmore

A Potpourri of Frequently Asked Legal Questions

This month’s Q&A represents a departure from our usual single topic format. The staff attorneys of LGC’s Legal Services and Government Affairs Department answer thousands of questions each year posed by local officials from towns and cities both large and small. Following are some of those questions on various topics that we hope you will find useful to your work as a local official.

It’s Mud Season: Weight Restrictions on Local Roads

Q. Do local officials have the authority to keep certain vehicles off of local roads?

Vegetation Clearance and the Insufficiency Law: What's the Municipal Responsibility?

Q. Must a municipality clear vegetation from a town or city highway right of way if the vegetation obstructs a motorist’s view of a “stop” sign installed by the State of New Hampshire at the intersection of a state and town highway?

Municipal Building Projects: Balancing Liability Concerns and Design Recommendations

Q. If someone using public property is injured, can the municipality be held liable for damages?

A. Yes. If a person is injured at a municipal facility, they can claim that the municipality is liable for the injuries if the facility was negligently constructed or maintained. Negligence is a type of tort, based upon a wrongful action or failure to act, that violates a duty to a person and is the cause of some injury.

Class VI Roads and Maintenance Issues

Highway repair and maintenance projects are usually well underway at this time of year, prompting questions about maintenance of Class VI roads. There are lots of misconceptions about Class VI roads, so here are some reminders.

Understanding the Special Legal Issues that Apply to Bridges

Some are surprised to learn that a bridge that services a public road is part of the public highway. A bridge is defined as a structure on a public highway that has a clear span of 10 feet or more, which spans a water course or other opening or obstruction. RSA 234:2. As part of the public highway, legal issues are, for the most part, identical to any other municipal road. However, some issues are unique to bridges. The following is a brief overview of maintenance and liability issues relating to bridges.

Trees in the Right of Way: Ice Storm Highlights Uncertainty

As this article is written, the lights have only recently come back on following the most devastating ice storm event in New Hampshire history. Starting on December 11, 2008, two inches of precipitation fell as freezing rain over a large portion of the state. Nearly everything was coated with ice, sometimes as much as an inch thick. The effect on the electric and telephone utilities was immediate and catastrophic. As noted by Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH):

So, Who Owns the Rangeways, Anyway?

An ancient controversy resurfaced during the 2008 session of the General Court in House Bill 1491, “Establishing a committee to study the ownership and disposition of rangeways." “Rangeways" are the long, straight strips of land reserved for roads on the plans produced by the Colonial-era “proprietors" of the newly created townships to subdivide all the land in the townships. The lots were laid out in uniform rectangular rows, or “ranges," between parallel rangeways.

Posting Weight Limits During Mud Season

Municipalities have authority under RSA 231:191 to set maximum weight limits upon the Class IV, V or VI highways under their regulatory control, and often use that authority in the months of April and May. The winter is coming to an end, and the soils and pavements of highways freeze during the cooler overnight hours and then thaw during the relatively warm daylight hours. This “freeze-thaw cycle" can cause pavement to crack or break, and potholes to open.