DOVER — A city couple who does not want potholes repaired on their dirt road says they are just trying to protect their property rights.
Mary and Rick Hebbard own a home and business on Spruce Lane in Dover. Old Garrison Road, a Class VI dirt road, runs past their farm and is used by neighbors John and Karen Brough.
The Hebbards say they maintain their portion of Old Garrison Road and keep it in passable condition. But the Broughs want to fill in potholes on the portion of the road the Hebbards say belongs to them, and city officials have approved the work.
Mary Hebbard said she is looking forward to an upcoming hearing in Strafford County Superior Court, where she plans to ask the judge for permanent injunctive relief to stop the Broughs from doing any work on the section of Old Garrison Road by her house and business.
“This is what it looks like to defend your property rights,” Mary Hebbard said.
Rick Hebbard has been charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after an April 16 incident in which he allegedly jumped into the bucket of a loader truck and struggled with a person over a rake when work was starting on the pothole repairs. He is due in Dover Circuit Court on June 3.
The work was ceased when police saw that the Hebbards had gotten the temporary injunction to prevent the work.
The Hebbards claim that since the road is an easement on their property, they have the right to consent to work being done on it. But city officials and legal experts hold varying opinions on this.
“If you have a public easement, it doesn’t matter who owns the road underneath it,” said Marcus Hurn, a professor at University of New Hampshire School of Law in Concord.
Hurn said under state law, a municipality does not have the burden of paying for maintenance of Class VI roads, but they can approve of work on them because they are public ways.
“The whole point of Class VI roads is that there’s thousands of them in the state and it’s an enormous burden on small towns to be obligated to maintain them,” Hurn said. “With a town’s permission, any abutter may maintain the road.”
Bill Boynton, spokesman for the NH Department of Transportation, says there are approximately 2,480 mapped Class VI roads in the state.
John Storer is the director of community services in Dover. He said there are fewer Class VI roads in cities like Dover than in smaller communities, but disputes over who can and should maintain public dirt roads still come up.
“Every situation is different. We really try to research what the city’s specific role is in the situation. The city does not want to insert itself into a private matter,” Storer said.