PA 15-147—sHB 5092

Planning and Development Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DISCONTINUANCE OF HIGHWAYS AND PRIVATE WAYS BY MUNICIPALITIES

SUMMARY: The law generally allows town selectmen to discontinue all or part of a highway, private way, or land dedicated to such use with approval by a majority vote at a regular or special town meeting. This act requires them to notify owners of certain abutting properties before they meet to take final action on a discontinuance. It also requires them to mail notification of, and record, certain information on the land records if the discontinuance is approved. These provisions apply to discontinuances proposed to take effect on or after October 1, 2015.

The act allows a property owner aggrieved because he or she did not receive the required meeting notice to apply to the Superior Court for relief within 120 days after the discontinuance notice is recorded on the land records. It reduces, from eight months to 120 days, the period during which a person aggrieved by a discontinuance may appeal to the Superior Court.

Additionally, the act reduces, from eight months to 120 days, the period during which an aggrieved person may appeal to the Superior Court the selectmen's (1) decision to lay out (i. e. , designate) a highway or (2) failure to act on a discontinuance petition within 12 months.

Finally, the act makes technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015 and applicable to discontinuances or partial discontinuances proposed to take effect on or after that date.

NOTICE OF MEETING TO ACT ON A DISCONTINUANCE

Under the act, before selectmen meet to take final action on a discontinuance, they must send written notice of the meeting to the owner of each property that bounds the highway, private way, or dedicated land, or part being discontinued. The notice must (1) include the meeting date, time, place, and subject and (2) be sent by first class mail at least 30 days before the meeting to each property owner's address, as shown on the most recent grand list. If the selectmen believe that the discontinued area's boundary lines have become lost or uncertain, they must make reasonable efforts to identify the lines and notify the owners that bound such lines. The reasonable efforts do not have to include (1) examining titles or abstracts or (2) a land survey.

However, the selectmen need not send such notice to a property owner if they make a finding on the record supported by articulated fact that:

1. the owner's property does not bound the discontinued portion of the highway, private way, or dedicated land;

2. such notice is unnecessary; and

3. the property owner will not lose his or her sole access to a highway, private way, or land dedicated to such use after the discontinuance.

Under the act, 30 days before the meeting, the selectmen must conspicuously post a sign on each end of the highway, private way, or dedicated land, or part being discontinued indicating the date, time, place, and subject of the meeting. Only one sign is required if the selectmen make a finding on the record supported by articulated fact that only one sign is necessary.

PROVIDING NOTICE OF AN APPROVED DISCONTINUANCE

Under the act, if the selectmen and a majority of the town meeting approve a discontinuance, the selectmen must:

1. first, send notice of the decision, by certified mail, return receipt requested, to each property owner who was sent notice before the meeting to take final action on the discontinuance and

2. next, record notice of the approval on the land records.

The latter notice must include (1) a list of each parcel that bounds the affected highway, private way, or dedicated land and for which notice was required before the meeting to take final action on the discontinuance; (2) the name of each such parcel owner, as shown in the most recent grand list; and (3) the current assessor's map, block, and lot number for each such parcel.

INVALIDATING A DISCONTINUANCE

The act allows a property owner aggrieved by a discontinuance to apply to the Superior Court for relief if he or she did not receive the required meeting notice. However, it prohibits a court from invalidating a discontinuance or partial discontinuance if the town establishes that the notice was mailed to the owner's address as shown on the most recent grand list or the selectmen (1) made a good-faith effort to identify the parcels that bound the highway, private way, dedicated land, or identified boundary line and (2) mailed notice to each owner, as shown on the most recent grand list.

BACKGROUND

Related Law

Existing law gives property owners bounding a partially or completely discontinued or abandoned highway a right-of-way over such highway to the nearest or most accessible highway (CGS 13a-55).

OLR Tracking: JB; LH; VR; BS