City sues over access to conservation land along District 5 Road

  • 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 ConcordCourtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 9/25/2020 4:57:09 PM
Modified: 9/25/2020 4:56:58 PM

Another legal fray has been launched regarding public access near Rossview Farm, with the city of Concord saying a property owner is illegally blocking District 5 Road and keeping people from getting to city-owned conservation land.

The city solicitor’s office has filed what is known as a Petition to Quiet Title in Merrimack County Superior Court against Lynn and Susan Woodard, who own land adjacent to the disputed stretch of the road. The issue is not related to a nearby dispute between the state and Rossview Farm over access to the West End Farm Trail.

District 5 Road runs east-west from Penacook Lake toward the Hopkinton town line. The western half of it was discontinued for public use in 1953; the eastern half remains as dead-end pavement from Lakeview Drive.

In 2019 the city bought 232 acres around the discontinued road for conservation, believing that this gave them control of half the width of the discontinued road, which could be used for public access.

But the Woodards say that in 2018 they bought a 1.4-acre property on the south side of the road that includes rights to the entire width of the road for a few hundred feet, not just half of it. Their property is near the intersection of the public portion and discontinued portion of District 5 Road.

Control of a discontinued road is usually split down the middle – to the centerline, in legal parlance – between owners of the properties on both sides. In a 2020 letter to the city, the Woodards’ attorney, Mark Hodgdon, calls this a “convenient fiction,” and argues that the couple’s deed covers the entire width of District 5 road for a few hundred feet alongside their property.

Key to the dispute is the wording of a 1986 deed by Gordon Matson, who at the time owned separate parcels on each side of the road. The city claims the deed incorrectly described how District 5 Road lay in relation to adjacent property.

The city’s legal filing says this error was discovered as Concord bought the land in 2019 and that “it was the intent … that the sale included title to the centerline of the discontinued portion of District No. 5 Road.”

The Woodards disagree, saying the 1986 deed shows that they own the entire width of the road, which was sometimes called Beech Hill Road.

This area has a long and convoluted ownership history. The city’s quiet-title court filing includes more than 100 pages of deeds and easements dating back to 1953, and flow charts drawn to trace ownership of two parcels covering more than a dozen purchases or transfers. The land that Concord bought in 2019 was long earmarked for a housing development that 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. 

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)




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