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Rogers v. Tyvoll

Superior Court of Maine, Somerset

December 22, 2015

KENNETH ROGERS, et al. Plaintiff
v.
JAMES E. TYVOLL, et al., Defendant

ORDER

DONALD H. MARDEN Superior Court Justice

Before the court is Plaintiffs' complaint for declaratory judgment, trespass, injunctive relief, and damages. An evidentiary trial was held before the court without a jury.

The court finds the following. In 1989, the Hughes Lumber, Inc., held title to the west half of Township 4, Range 16, known as the Elm Stream Township. In the Fall of that year, Hughes Lumber subdivided the Township into lots and recorded in the Somerset Registry of Deeds a plan prepared by A.B. Sturgeon, a licensed surveyor, a plan titled "A Proposed Division of Land of West Half of Township 4, Range 16 for Hughes Lumber, Inc., " dated September 30, 1989 ("the Plan"). The Plan was recorded in the Somerset County Registry of Deeds, Plan File B-89, page 165. This Plan identifies a series of large lots labeled "A" through "N" and additional lots known as "out lot" and "b/o lot 1." The Plan also contains a system of roads. The notes contained on the Plan indicate it is based upon a survey plan by J.W. Sewall, that all roads, streams, and ponds were digitized from an aerial photograph dated August 1981, all distances, bearings, and acreages are approximate, and finally, in note number 4, "all roads used as property lines and used to provide access to other lots are to be sixty-six foot right-of-ways."

All of the Plaintiffs and the Defendants own parcels of land shown on the Plan, although some of the lots have been further subdivided since the Plan was recorded.

In their complaint, the Plaintiffs assert that they, as well the Defendants, have the legal right to travel over all the roads located in the west half of Township 4, Range 16. Some deeds related to specific easement rights expressed. All the parcels of land are based upon deeds from Hughes Lumber or its successor making specific reference to the lot titled as it appears on the Plan. Therefore, all of the rights of the parties are based upon such lawful benefits as are conveyed to them by the terms of the Plan as incorporated by implication in their deeds, if not expressly recited.[1]

Defendants Paul Beaulieu and Marjorie Beaulieu acquired title to land in the Township by deeds describing 50 acres of Lot H, a portion of the east half of Lot E, Lot G, one-half interest in Lot D and a 29/500 in interest in the remaining Lot #H, all in reference to the Plan. In 1995, the Beaulieus conveyed their holdings in the Township to the Marjorie Beaulieu Revocable Trust and the Paul H. Beaulieu Revocable Trust of 1999 reciting all of the previously acquired properties. .

Defendants James E. Tyvoll and Angela J. Tyvoll acquired title to Lot I and a portion of Lot G, both in referebce to the Plan. In 2014, James and Angela Tyvoll conveyed to Trustees of the "Tyvoll Family Revocable Trust Agreement of December 19, 2014, " a portion of Lot G and Lot I. Defendant Lillian Brooks acquired title to a portion of Lot L, in reference to the Plan.

It is the position of the plaintiffs that all persons owning property in the western half of Township 4, Range 16, derive their title from deeds designating lot numbers in the recorded plan. As such, the Plaintiffs aver that each lot owner acquired rights with respect to the roadways delineated on the Plan. It appears undisputed that at the time of the recording of the plans, all roads on the plan were in actual existence on the ground in one form or another given the remote rural character of the area.

In October of 1993, the Beaulieus made their first attempt at closing one of the roads on the Plan known as Daisy Lane. They did so by erecting a gate made of steel I-beams. Over a period of time, locks and chains on the gate were destroyed. In expressing their concerns to Bart Hughes, a representative of Hughes Lumber, they claim they were advised that if they owned both sides of Daisy Lane, they would have title to the road and therefore could close it to outside trespassers.[2] In reliance on that alleged statement, they acquired the property on the opposite side of the Lane. At this time they placed large boulders in the Lane to obstruct traffic. This was accomplished during 2010 or 2012 according to the testimony of Marjorie Beaulieu. Those obstructions remain to this date.

Defendant Lillian Brooks was bothered by persons breaking into her buildings. Several years ago, in conjunction with Defendant Tyvoll, she placed a chain across what is known as the Tyvoll Road, a road appearing on the plan. This latest chain was put in place two years ago. When Defendant James Tyvoll purchased a portion of Lot G and Lot I in 1981, he first placed a gate at the T of the Loop Road and the Tyvoll Road. He noticed in 2010 that his gate was moved to another location where it now exists.

In all instances there is a common theme by Beaulieu, Tyvoll, and Brooks in that they wish to protect their property. They wish to prevent access to their lands by others. Hunting and other lawful activities have caused vandalism, waste and most of all, disturbed the peace and enjoyment of the owners who wish to be free to have privacy and to enjoy their property alone. It is undisputed that the defendants have suffered damage as a result of persons coming on their property who may not have the right to do so. However, this case is limited to the issue of the ability of defendants, or any other property owner in the Elm Stream Township, to deny access to any of the roads within the Township, currently delineated on the Plan to which reference is made in each parties' deed.

This case is governed by two very old and well established principles of law. The elements of rights in land by grantees from deeds making reference to a recorded plan and the viability and effect of oral evidence contradicting the terms of a deed of land.

In 1878, the Maine Supreme Court, in the case of Bartlett v. Bangor, 67 Me. 460, established that, "a sale of lots with reference to such plat. . . will amount to an immediate and irrevocable dedication of the latter, binding upon both vendor and vendee . . . ." The case established an easement of way or right of passage and the right of using the way for every purpose that may be usual and reasonable "for the accommodation of the granted premises." The Court went on further to say, "and such a right of way is not lost by mere non-use." Citing a Massachusetts case concluding that a conveyance of land bounded by a street not defined in the deed, "but shown upon a plan therein referred to, estopped the grantor to deny the existence, not only of that street, but of all the connecting streets laid down on the same plan . . . ." In addition to those locations, the Court held that the plan not only established the courses and distances, "but all other particulars, appearing upon the plan, are to be regarded as if they had been expressly recited in the deed." The Court makes clear, citing earlier cases,

And it has been decided in this state, as well as other states, that when the owner of land makes a plan of it, delineating thereon a street, with building lots adjoining, and then sells one of those lots by a reference to the plan, he thereby secures to the ...

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