Court rejects attempt to end suit over public access near Rossview Farm

  • This illustration from Concord’s legal filing shows the disputed half of District 5 road, in red. The Woodard’s property is on the south side of that area; the city’s conservation land is to the north. District 5 Road is open to the public on the right half of this photo, up to the discontinued Dimond Road. —City of Concord

Monitor staff
Published: 5/2/2021 3:00:04 PM

The legal battle over public access to city-owned conservation land near Rossview Farm will continue after a judge rejected an argument that the time limit for the dispute has expired.

The issue concerns a dispute between the city of Concord and Lynn and Susan Woodard, who own land adjacent to a discontinued stretch of District 5 Road. That dispute is whether the city’s 2019 purchase of 232 acres of land on the north side of the road includes enough of the roadway’s width that it can be used to provide public access

The Woodards argue their 2018 purchase of 1.4 acres on the south side of the road covers the entire width of the road, and have blocked public access. Last September, the city solicitor’s office filed what is known as a Petition to Quiet Title in Merrimack County Superior Court, seeking to force them to open it up.

The Woodards sought to have the petition dismissed, arguing that the 20-year statute of limitations for such cases in state law had run out.

In a ruling earlier this month by Merrimack County Superior Court Judge John Kissinger disagreed. He said the 20-year clock did not begin ticking in 1986, when a deed was filed whose details are at the heart of the dispute, as the Woodards argue. Rather, he said, it dates back only to 2019, when the difference was brought up during public hearings for the city’s purchase of the conservation land.

District 5 Road runs east-west from Penacook Lake toward Hopkinton. The western half was discontinued for public use in 1953; the eastern half remains as dead-end pavement from Lakeview Drive. Control of a discontinued road is usually split down the middle, to the centerline, if different people own property on each side of it, unless deeds specifically say otherwise.

The land that Concord bought in 2019 had been earmarked for years for a housing development which never occurred.

The Woodards are parents of Rebecca Woodard Ross who, with her husband, Donald, owns the nearby Rossview Farm. The Rosses have been sued by the state for blocking access to a portion of the West End Farm Trail at the western end of the discontinued portion of District 5 Road.

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