Download this document in MS Word format


AutoFill Template

H.701

Introduced by   Committee on Transportation

Date:

Subject:  Highways; identified corridors; unidentified corridors

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to:

     (1)  Address the issue of ancient rights-of-way by establishing criteria for new classifications to be known as unidentified and identified corridors.  An unidentified corridor is a properly laid out highway that does not appear on the town highway map as of July 1, 2013; is not otherwise clearly observable by physical evidence of its use as a highway or trail; and is not a legal trail.  If an unidentified corridor does not appear on a town highway map by July 1, 2013, it is discontinued and belongs to the owners of the adjoining lands.  If the unidentified corridor appears on the town highway map by that date, it shall be known as an identified corridor with a right of public access.

     (2)  Set forth the procedure by which a selectboard may request the agency of transportation to include an unidentified corridor on a town highway map.

     (3)  Set forth the manner in which an identified corridor may be improved, maintained, or opened for use by the public.

     (4)  Provide that a town or county highway that has been the subject of a discontinuance proceeding under the law applicable at the time of the proceeding be presumed to have been discontinued, notwithstanding failure to adhere to the law’s requirements for discontinuing the highway if certain stated conditions are met.

     (5)  Provide that when a person owning or interested in lands through which a highway is laid out, altered, or resurveyed by selectboard members objects to the necessity of taking the land or is dissatisfied with the laying out, altering or resurveying of the highway or with the compensation for damages, he or she may appeal to a superior court in accordance with Rule 75 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure.

     (6)  Clarify that a selectboard may discontinue a highway regardless of whether the highway was originally laid out by the town, the former county court, the supreme court, a committee of the general assembly, a turnpike company, or established in any other manner now or formerly authorized by law.

     (7)  Provide that grants from the municipal and regional planning fund to municipalities that do not have a municipal plan may be used for mapping town highways, trails, and unidentified and identified corridors.

     (8)  Transfer funds from the municipal and regional planning fund and the property transfer tax to the general fund for municipalities to map town highways.

AN ACT RELATING TO ANCIENT ROADS TO BE KNOWN AS IDENTIFIED CORRIDORS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  19 V.S.A. § 302 is amended to read:

§ 302.  CLASSIFICATION OF TOWN HIGHWAYS

(a)  For the purposes of this section and receiving state aid, all town highways shall be categorized into one or another of the following classes:

(1)  Class 1 town highways are those town highways which form the extension of a state highway route and which carry a state highway route number.  The agency shall determine which highways are to be class 1 highways.

(2)  Class 2 town highways are those town highways selected as the most important highways in each town.  As far as practicable they shall be selected with the purposes of securing trunk lines of improved highways from town to town and to places which by their nature have more than normal amount of traffic.  The selectmen, with the approval of the agency, shall determine which highways are to be class 2 highways.

(3)  Class 3 town highways:

(A)  Class 3 town highways are all traveled town highways other than class 1 or 2 highways.  The selectmen, after conference with a representative of the agency shall determine which highways are class 3 town highways.

(B)  The minimum standards for class 3 highways are a highway negotiable under normal conditions all seasons of the year by a standard manufactured pleasure car.  This would include but not be limited to sufficient surface and base, adequate drainage, and sufficient width capable to provide winter maintenance, except that based on safety considerations for the traveling public and municipal employees, the selectboard shall, by rule adopted under 24 V.S.A. chapter 59, and after following the process for providing notice and hearing in section 709 of this title, have authority to determine whether a class 3 highway, or section of highway, should be plowed and made negotiable during the winter.  However, a property owner aggrieved by a decision of the selectboard may appeal to the transportation board pursuant to subdivision 5(d)(8) of this title.

(C)  A highway not meeting these standards may be reclassified as a provisional class 3 highway if within five years of the determination, it will meet all class 3 highway standards.

(4)  Class 4 town highways are all other town highways that are not class 1, 2, and 3 town highways or unidentified or identified corridors.  The selectmen shall determine which highways are class 4 town highways.

(5)  Trails shall not be considered highways and the town shall not be responsible for any maintenance including culverts and bridges.

(6)(A)  Unidentified corridors.

(i)  Unidentified corridors are tracts of land that have been laid out as a highway by proper authority through the process provided by law at the time they were created or by dedication and acceptance; and

(ii)  do not, by July 1, 2013, appear on the town highway map prepared pursuant to section 305 of this title; and

(iii)  are not otherwise clearly observable by physical evidence of their use as a highway or trail; and

(iv)  are not  legal trails.

(B)  If the conditions in subdivisions (i) and (ii) of this subdivision (6)(A) exist, the legislative body of a municipality or a designee shall have authority to enter private property to determine whether clearly observable physical evidence exists.

(C)  After July 1, 2013, an unidentified corridor is discontinued and shall be deemed the property of the owners of the adjoining lands at that time and no rights shall accrue to a municipality except for the right of condemnation under the provisions of chapter 5 of this title.

(7)  Identified corridors.

(A)  If by July 1, 2013, an unidentified corridor appears on the town highway map, it shall be classified as an identified corridor and there shall be a right of public access.  However, a town shall not be responsible for maintenance of the corridor and shall not have any legal liability for persons using the corridor.

(B)  At any point after a tract of land is classified as an identified corridor, a municipality may reclassify it to a class 4 town highway or trail under the provisions of chapter 7 of this title.

(b)  The agency may require any municipality which fails to comply with the class 3 provisional commitments to return all state aid generated by the section or sections of highways involved.

Sec. 2.  19 V.S.A. § 305 is amended to read:

§ 305.  MEASUREMENT AND INSPECTION

(a)  After reasonable notice to the selectboard, a representative of the agency may measure and inspect the class 1, 2 and 3 town highways in each town to verify the accuracy of the records on file with the agency.  Upon request, the selectboard or their designee shall be permitted to accompany the representative of the agency during the measurement and inspection.  The agency shall notify the town when any highway, or portion of a highway, does not meet the standards for its assigned class.  If the town fails, within one year, to restore the highway or portion of the highway to the accepted standard, or to reclassify, or to discontinue, or develop an acceptable schedule for restoring to the accepted standards, the agency for purposes of apportionment under section 306 of this title shall deduct the affected mileage from that assigned to the town for the particular class of the road in question.

(b)  Annually, on or before February 10, the selectboard shall file with the town clerk a sworn statement of the description and measurements of all class 1, 2, and 3 town highways, and identified corridors then in existence, including any special designation such as a throughway or scenic highway.  When class 1, 2, or 3 town highways are accepted, discontinued, or reclassified, a copy of the proceedings shall be filed in the town clerk’s office and a copy shall be forwarded to the agency.  All class 1, 2, 3, and 4 town highways and identified corridors and trails shall appear on the town highway maps by July 1, 2013.

(c)  Except when a request from a selectboard for an addition to the town highway map results from proceedings already conducted under the provisions of sections 708 through 711 of this title for laying out, discontinuing, or reclassifying a highway, a selectboard shall hold a public hearing prior to requesting the agency of transportation to add an unidentified corridor defined in subdivision 302(a)(6) of this title to the town highway map, and a survey shall not be required.

(c)(d)  The agency shall not accept any change in mileage until the records required to be filed in the town clerk's office by this section are received by the agency. All records filed with the agency are subject to verification in accordance with subsection (a) of this section.

(d)(e)  The selectboard of any town who are aggrieved by a finding of the agency concerning the measurement, description or classification of a town highway may appeal to the transportation board by filing a notice of appeal with the executive secretary of the transportation board.

(e)(f)  Upon request, the agency shall provide each town with a map of all of the highways in that town together with the mileage of each class 1, 2 and 3 highway and such other information as the agency deems appropriate.

Sec. 3.  19 V.S.A. § 310(e) is added to read:

(e)  If the owners of lands adjacent to what is known as an identified corridor object to it being opened for use by the public, the corridor shall not be opened if the edge of the right-of-way closest to a building passes within 33 feet of the building.  In such instances, the corridor may be altered or rerouted in a manner which complies with the setback requirements of zoning bylaws at the time the building permit was issued.  Notwithstanding section 1102 of this title, persons owning or interested in lands affected by the identified corridors shall be entitled to compensation for upgrades made by a municipality within the corridor.  An identified corridor shall not be deemed to be a subdivision with respect to zoning, tax, and septic issues.


Sec. 4.  19 V.S.A. § 717 is amended to read:

§ 717.  EVIDENCE OF HIGHWAY COMPLETION OR

           DISCONTINUANCE

(a)  The lack of a certificate of completion of a highway shall not alone constitute conclusive evidence that a highway is not public.

(b)  A town or county highway that has not been kept passable for use by the general public for motorized or nonmotorized travel at the expense of the municipality for a period of 30 or more consecutive years following a final determination to discontinue the highway shall be presumed to have been effectively discontinued.  This presumption of discontinuance may be rebutted by evidence that manifests a clear intent by the municipality or county and the public to consider or use the way as a highway.  The presumption of discontinuance is not rebutted by evidence that shows isolated acts of maintenance, unless other evidence exists that shows a clear intent by the municipality or county to consider or use the highway as if it were a public right‑of‑way.  A discontinuance which has been validated pursuant to the above presumption shall not operate in a manner which denies any person access to property which was accessible prior to the presumption.


Sec. 5.  19 V.S.A. § 740 is amended to read:

§ 740.  PETITION

(a)  When a person owning or interested in lands through which a highway is laid out, altered, or resurveyed by selectboard members, objects to the necessity of taking the land, or is dissatisfied with the laying out, altering or resurveying of the highway, or with the compensation for damages, he or she may appeal, in the manner provided for state agencies subject to the Administrative Procedure Act (3 V.S.A. chapter 25) accordance with Rule 75 of the Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure, to the superior court in the same county, or in either county when the highway or bridge is in two counties.  Any number of aggrieved persons may join in the appeal.  The appeal shall be filed within 30 days after the order of the selectboard members on the highway is recorded.  JDIf the appeal is taken from the appraisal of damages only, the selectboard members may proceed with the work as though no appeal had been taken.  Each of the appellants shall be entitled to a trial by jury on the question of damages.

(b)  The words “necessity” and “damages” as used in this section shall have the same definition as set forth in chapter 5 of this title.


Sec. 6.  19 V.S.A. § 771 is amended to read:

§ 771.  PROCEDURE

The selectmen selectboard may discontinue a town highway or bridge wholly within the town after following the procedures of sections 708-711 of this title.  The selectmen of two or more towns may discontinue a highway continuing into each of the towns by individually following the same procedure.  The public hearing may be jointly held if the selectmen agree.  If the decision is not the same in all towns involved, the superior court shall be petitioned to resolve the issue.  If two or more counties are involved then the petition can be presented to the court in the county having the greatest share of mileage involved.  The commissioners appointed to discontinue a highway or bridge shall be disinterested landowners who are not those appointed to lay out the highway or bridge. A decree or order made by the commissioners under the provisions of this section may be reviewed by the superior court under the same conditions and the same proceedings as are provided for the laying out of highways.  The authority of the selectboard under this subsection shall extend to any town highway, regardless of whether the highway was originally laid out by the town, the former county court, the supreme court, a committee of the general assembly, a turnpike company, or established in any other manner now or formerly authorized by law.

(b)  Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, the selectboard shall not discontinue a class 1 or class 2 town highway without the prior approval of the secretary of transportation.

(c)  Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, the selectboard shall not discontinue a class 3 or class 4 town highway extending into an adjacent town without notifying the selectboard of the adjacent town.  If the selectboard of the adjacent town is aggrieved by a decision of the selectboard of the town in which the highway is located, it may appeal to the transportation board pursuant to subdivision 5(d)(8) of this title.

Sec. 7.  REPEAL

19 V.S.A. §§ 773 (county highways) and 774 (highways ordered by general assembly) are repealed.

Sec. 8.  19 V.S.A. § 5(d)(8) is amended to read:

(d)  The board shall:

(8)  hear and determine disputes involving the decision of a selectboard under subdivision 302(a)(3)(B) or subsection 310(a) of this title not to plow and make negotiable a class 2 or 3 town highway or section of a highway during the winter or involving discontinuances of class 3 or 4 town highways extending into adjacent towns under the provisions of subsection 771(c) of this title; and


Sec. 9.  24 V.S.A. § 4306 is amended to read:

§ 4306.  MUNICIPAL AND REGIONAL PLANNING FUND

* * *

(b)  Disbursement to regional planning commissions shall be according to a formula to be adopted by rule under chapter 25 of Title 3 by the department for the assistance of the regional planning commissions.  The rules shall give due consideration to the region's progress in adopting a regional plan.  Disbursement to municipalities shall be through a competitive program administered by the department providing the opportunity for any eligible municipality or municipalities to compete regardless of size, provided that to receive funds, a municipality:

(1)  Shall be confirmed under section 4350 of this title; or

(2)(A)  Shall use the funds for the purpose of developing a municipal plan to be submitted for approval by the regional planning commission, as required for municipal confirmation under section 4350 of this title; and

(B)  Shall have voted at an annual or special meeting to provide local funds for municipal and regional planning purposes; or

(3)  That lacks a municipal plan shall use the funds exclusively to research and map town highways, trails, and unidentified and identified corridors under 19 V.S.A. § 302(a)(6) and (7).

* * *

(d)  The department of housing and community affairs shall establish priorities to govern disbursements to municipalities from the fund.  Priorities shall include municipal mapping of town highways, trails, and unidentified and identified corridors under 19 V.S.A. § 302(a)(6) and (7).

Sec. 10.  Sec. 253 of No. 71 of the Acts of 2005 is amended to read:

Sec. 253.  APPROPRIATIONS; PROPERTY TRANSFER TAX

(a)  This act contains the following amounts appropriated from special funds that receive revenue from the property transfer tax.  Expenditures from these appropriations shall not exceed available revenues:

(1)  Notwithstanding Sec. 273 of No. 122 of the Acts of the 2003 Adj. Sess (2004), the sum of $288,000 is appropriated from the property valuation and review administration special fund to the department of taxes for administration of the use tax reimbursement program.  Notwithstanding 32 V.S.A. § 9610(c), amounts above $288,000 from the property transfer tax that are deposited into the property valuation and review administration special fund shall be transferred into the general fund.

(2)  The sum of $13,171,180 is appropriated from the Vermont housing and conservation trust fund to the Vermont housing and conservation trust board. Notwithstanding 10 V.S.A. § 312, amounts above $13,171,180 from the property transfer tax that are deposited into the Vermont housing and conservation trust fund shall be transferred into the general fund.

(3)  The sum of $3,939,566  $4,039,566 is appropriated from the municipal and regional planning fund.  Notwithstanding 24 V.S.A. § 4306(a), amounts above $3,939,566   $4,039,566 from the property transfer tax that are deposited into the municipal and regional planning fund shall be transferred into the general fund.  The $3,939,566  $4,039,566 shall be allocated as follows:

(A)  The sum of $2,757,696 for disbursement to regional planning commissions in a manner consistent with 24 V.S.A. § 4306(b);

(B)  The sum of $787,913 $887,913 for disbursement grants to municipalities shall be disbursed in a manner consistent with 24 V.S.A. § 4306(b) and priority for seven years may be given to municipalities for the purpose of mapping town highways;

(C)  The sum of $393,957 to the Vermont center for geographic information.

* * *

Sec. 11.  SUNSET

Subdivision 4306(b)(3) of Title 24 (disbursements from municipal and regional planning fund for the researching and mapping of town highways, trails, and unidentified and identified corridors) is repealed July 2, 2013.


Sec. 12.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This section and Sec. 10 of this act shall take effect from passage and the remainder shall take effect July 1, 2006.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us