Legal Q & A

Tax Deeded Property (Legal Q & A)

For this discussion, we will assume that the municipality uses the "optional tax lien procedure" set forth in RSA 80:58-:91. Further, we must assume that the landowner has not filed for protection under the federal Bankruptcy Code. If either of these assumptions do not apply to a specific fact situation, you should seek additional advice from the municipal attorney regarding these issues.

Q. How does a municipality enforce the obligation of property owners to pay property taxes assessed against their real estate?

Sealing of Nonpublic Session Meeting Minutes

By Kimberly A. Hallquist, staff attorney with the New Hampshire Local Government Center's Legal Services and Government Affairs Department

A great deal of confusion exists over "sealed" meeting minutes, probably because the term "sealed" suggests that the meeting minutes are somehow literally sealed and unavailable for viewing-by anyone, forever. This is not the case.

Q. What does it mean "to seal" meeting minutes?

Municipal Authority and the Doctrine of Ultra Vires

Municipal officials involved in litigation or threatened litigation will occasionally encounter the charge that the municipality or its officials have engaged in conduct that is “ultra vires.” “Ultra vires” has nothing to do with sunburn or the flu, but it is an important legal concept for officials to understand. In some circumstances, municipal action can be overturned because it is ultra vires. In other cases, the fact that an act is ultra vires can be a defense to municipal liability.

Q. What does “ultra vires” mean?

Troubleshooting on Election Day

An election is a complex event. Election officials spend a lot of time each year learning election laws and preparing for the election so that it will run smoothly. There are always a few questions, however. These are some of the more common questions that arise among our members each year.

Q. Who is in charge of elections?

Annual Reports: A Town’s Year in Review

By Kimberly A. Hallquist

The annual report is as much of a town meeting tradition as the moderator’s gavel, the old wooden ballot box and the rows of chairs facing the moderator’s podium. Prominently depicted in the 1942 Norman Rockwell painting Freedom of Speech, the annual report plays an important role before, during and after the annual town meeting.

Winter Maintenance of Roads and Sidewalks

As winter approaches, it is time once again for towns and cities to review their policies regarding plowing, salting and sanding of municipal roads and sidewalks. While every town and city has a good deal of experience with these duties, the specific responsibilities and limitations placed on New Hampshire municipalities by state and federal law continue to evolve. In this column, we look at some of the frequently-asked questions regarding winter maintenance and explain the current status of the law.

Mandatory Lot Merger Clauses in Zoning Ordinances: How Enforceable Are They?

RSA 674:39-a, enacted in 1995, provides a relatively simple process for an owner of two or more contiguous parcels to merge them voluntarily for purposes of land use regulation and property tax assessment. All that is required is a notice of the merger that adequately identifies the parcels, signed by the planning board or its designee and recorded in the registry of deeds, with a copy to the assessing officials. No new deed or plan is required.

Exercising a Public Trust: Voting

“Your every voter, as surely as your Chief Magistrate, under the same high sanction, though in a different sphere, exercises a public trust." So observed Grover Cleveland, the 22nd President of the United States, in his first inaugural address in 1885. Here in New Hampshire, citizens take elections and voting very seriously. For nearly 90 years, New Hampshire voters have participated in the first-in-the-nation Presidential primary—a tradition that is fiercely guarded.

Understanding the Concept of Municipal Estoppel

Q. What is “municipal estoppel"?
A legal doctrine employed by courts to assure that citizens are treated fairly in their dealings with municipalities. If a person proves that a matter was taken up with the municipality:

Municipal Regulation of Fireworks

In the minds of many Americans, fireworks are an integral, and very familiar, part of community-wide celebrations. At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2000, spectacular fireworks displays were set off around the world. Many of us fondly recall as children being taken by our parents to local fireworks shows that started just after dusk on the Fourth of July—a much anticipated summer event. Sporting events, from regular season baseball games to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games, often employ fireworks displays as a way to excite the spectators.