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Old 06-22-2020, 07:13 PM   #1
Slickcraft
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Default Do we really own our land?

Welcome to the Forum Jim.

As you probably know there is a lot of murky history going back to when the State "took" land for the building of the railroad. If this ends up with many court actions then the lawyers will be the only winners.

I think that putting political pressure on DOT is the way to go. Getting town officials and state reps on your side is a good suggestion. Good luck!

Alan
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Old 06-22-2020, 09:35 PM   #2
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Default Do we really own our land?

Hello All,
I’ve been ‘lurking’ on this website for over 17 years and feel that I know many of you very well; your political stance, your environmental concerns, your humor, problems with your boat, home, and even some family issues! I thank you all for the many, many hours of enlightenment, education, and welcome fascination. But now, I’m speaking up:

(I originally broached this subject in response to an inquiry in the “History” section ... probably not the correct forum. My apologies.)

I, like many of my Alton neighbors, received a very disconcerting registered letter last week from the NH DOT, seeking to repossess our waterfront property (of which I have a quit-claim deed issued by the town of Alton; and have been paying property taxes) across the street from my home. The state is obviously looking for new sources of revenue, and decided this was the easiest ‘low hanging fruit’. I’ve been paying taxes for 17 years on that parcel of land and am not happy about the situation. Imagine, taking back deeded property and then leasing it back to the owner!

This State action has severe implications for the waterfront owners, people who live across the street from the waterfront, and the town coffers.

I have tried twice to phone the DOT to get additional information on the subject, but they ‘preferred’ to not discuss the situation; and my email has gone unanswered. I have chatted with our town assessor, who was very helpful & informative. I urge others to make similar connections. Let’s be sure the town knows that the state is reducing a revenue stream, decimating the market value of our homes across the street, and questioning the town’s issue of deeded property.

Is this happening in other towns? Gilford, Meredith, perhaps?

Let’s get a group of residents/landowners together, and voice our viewpoint with our State Representative and our town fathers.

Anyone interested, please contact me here or via private message. There is ‘security in numbers’!

Thank you for letting me vent .....

Jim
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Old 06-22-2020, 10:02 PM   #3
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Where and what are they proposing to take? The impact to people's property value is going to be substantial I would think, there has to be some kind of way to fight it no?
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Old 06-22-2020, 10:09 PM   #4
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Jim, if you are on FB, you may find more Alton residents in like circumstances for the purpose of banding together.

Just a thought, and good luck.

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Old 06-22-2020, 10:25 PM   #5
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The NH DOT is apparently claiming to be the rightful owner of much of the waterfront property on the east side of Mt Major Highway; as it is encroaching on their right-of-way. It appears this concerns property from Sandy Point to ‘the bridge’. They claim possession of the docks, decks, stairways, and structures. But, (get this) they are willing to discuss terms of lease once we surrender the land!

I have just a dock and some stairs. But, can you imagine how the owners of the houses feel?

This is property that each of us has a deed and have been paying property taxes.

The whole situation is surreal! For some, I imagine it’s a nightmare!
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Old 06-22-2020, 10:51 PM   #6
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Although I don’t fully understand the context, this sounds awful.

A couple suggestions to consider:

Try to organize with those impacted so you act as a group as best you can. There is strength and efficiency in numbers. There seems to be a finite number of homeowners impacted, so perhaps door to door to start?

Reach out to your state rep, senator, and even governor’s office to try to enlist their help. Local government officials will have no pull, but your state rep/senator should try to help you navigate.

A legal fight will get expensive (see first suggestion). I would suspect many of those affected had owners title insurance policies, and as described this might implicate title insurance coverage. It’s time to notify the title insurers and get the insurance lawyers to start defending against this.
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Old 06-22-2020, 11:03 PM   #7
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I'd lawyer up... NOW!
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Old 06-23-2020, 05:46 AM   #8
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A short well crafted letter to the Baysider to let the general public know. Maybe the Baysider will consider an article.

Alan


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Old 06-23-2020, 06:09 AM   #9
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Default Not just Alton

It is everywhere there is a public road bordering shorefront. It had happened between Rocky Pond and 106 in Gilmanton. It had also happened on railway between the rail bed and the Merrimack River. Usually done when they want to widen a road or add public utilities along the road or bed.
Even the old lakeshore railroad when they put the sewage in along the old railroad bed in Gilford. They ran out of money when they reach Diamond Island Landing. If they decide to fund in the future to continue, watch out! The original plan is to surround the lake. I notice Alton tend to ignore this and allow substantial development on the rail bed, Gilford and Laconia are fortunate not to.

Good Luck hiring a lawyer. And a sleazy one at that!
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Old 06-23-2020, 07:35 AM   #10
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Someone recently posted a request for old photos of that area.
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Old 06-23-2020, 07:51 AM   #11
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First to answer your question, no, we don't own our own land. It's sad. We have to ask permission to do anything with it and give it to them if they want it. But I agree, there is only strength in numbers and you need to form a group to fight this. I am thinking of those houses that are right on the water in AB, not across the street. That must mean the state thinks they own them too? They will not only lose land, steps and maybe a boathouse maybe but their house!! Whatever happened to they work for us? They don't. They are the rulers of us. So sad. I know how you feel being a victim of eminent domain. And in our case at least they didn't want to pay us any money close to what we had it assessed for. It is heart wrenching to go through. I am so sorry for you.
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Old 06-23-2020, 09:08 AM   #12
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You may find this to be informative to read as you prepare for what you are going to do. This outlines what the state can do however it seems clear to me that this is all defined within the context of doing improvements to the roadway itself.

https://www.nh.gov/dot/org/projectde...10_00_2014.pdf

This will be interesting to follow as it seems as though the state has the obligation to provide some reasoning for forced possession which maybe the do but it remains unstated and it seems peculiar to me that they want to take possession then discuss it's future use at a later time. Could be this is a precursor to a plan they have in mind to do some improvements or a desire to proactively take control over this property so that they can at their leisure so what they want later.

I do agree the significant value of those properties is the "owned" frontage even if it is across the road. Without that the values of those properties will tumble considerably and let's be real to "lease back" is not the same as deeded ownership. Along with that comes additional controls over the property which extend beyond what DES would enforce. At any time they could say something such as no docks and you have no recourse being a lease and not an owner type of situation.

Even if you were to get some compensation from the state - the long term value is still significantly impacted.

Then again sadly the precedent has been set where eminent domain has been used to take property for purposes which many question those use cases falling within the intended purpose of the law.
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Old 06-23-2020, 09:41 AM   #13
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This same thing happened on Newfound Lake—my aunt was told they owned the land across the street and then, after 30 years, the town/state said they didn't and made it a public beach.

I remember the change in two summers as a kid—one summer, it was peaceful and serene; the next, it was chaos.

Good luck in your fight—network well to get people on your side early.

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Old 06-23-2020, 10:23 AM   #14
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Good Morning All!
Thank you for all your input. The more discussion & ideas that are presented on this forum, the better!

I don't think the DOT has any road improvement in mind. They appear to have contacted only owners who are actively utilizing the waterfront (East) side of the road, or have encroached on the easterly right-of-way. If they need land to implement road improvements, it would appear logical they would expand West. They have expressed no interest in waterfront that remains barren or untrodden, or on land on the west side of the road.

Apparent evidence points toward them using the waterfront property and their right-of-way as a source of income; they have indicated that lease terms are negotiable. I feel terrible for owners of homes & businesses (such as Sandy Point) which have homes/facilities on the right-of-way; perhaps built even before the highway was paved!

Unfortunately, only the lawyers are going to benefit from this situation. And many people are going to loose a significant portion of the investment they made in their home and businesses ... many of which were counting on it for their retirement .... myself included.

This is a very serious situation for many families.
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Old 06-23-2020, 10:25 AM   #15
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Advice to get together, and lawyer up is a good one.

A quitclaim deed only means the grantor waives any claims he/she has to that property. Not the same as a warranty deed.


Not only Quitclaim Deed and Rights-of-Way, but also Eminent Domain issue should be looked at.
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Old 06-23-2020, 10:52 AM   #16
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I hope you prevail....

I don't think the Quitclaim from the town means much... if the State is claiming ownership. I don't think you can use 'Adverse Possession" as a defense against State property.

This is not that different from the WOW trail arguments for the extension between Lakeport & Weirs.

Lawyer up and quickly....

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Old 06-23-2020, 11:21 AM   #17
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Adverse Possession
https://courts-state-nh-us.libguides...8584&p=6387955

State v. Tallman 139 N.H. 223 (1994)

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_c...en&as_sdt=6,30

Because the State's rights in land are not always enforced and protected with the same vigilance as private rights, the legislature has determined that no person can acquire title to State 226*226 lands by adverse possession. RSA 539:6 (1992).

RSA 539:6
No Right Acquired by Adverse Possession of State Lands. – No right shall be acquired by such entry or possession, nor by any adverse possession of such land, as against the state or its grantees.

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/.../539/539-6.htm


Only an attorney can give legal advice. Opinions, however, are protected.
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Old 06-23-2020, 12:51 PM   #18
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An earlier post suggested that local town officials won't be much help. I disagree since letters etc from a Board of Selectmen usually get a response. The BOS certainly has an interest if they stand to lose property tax revenue.
State Reps and Senators: their schedules are strange this year, but there is usually a bill filing period in September for incumbents and again after the November elections. These are very brief, only a couple of weeks. The legislature can declare property surplus, perhaps direct that it be sold for $1.00. (Be careful, that approach might acknowledge state ownership) The point is, get your reps to do a little research now and draft related bills. Even if the content isn't exactly right, it can be amended later. The hardest part in a short time frame is to line up co-sponsors. You need some from each party and some from other parts of the state. There are many areas where a road separates a house from related shorefront. Who else is interested? Realtors Associations where property values are concerned, Mortgage lenders where the value of collateral is affected. This could be much broader than just a few houses in Alton Bay. I'd talk to the Chair of the House Committee on Public Works and Highways; they hold the purse strings for DOT budgets. Also, talk to the ranking member who may be next year's chairman. Better to call instead of writing so it can be a two sided discussion and clear to all. Good luck.
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Old 06-23-2020, 01:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by root1 View Post
Apparent evidence points toward them using the waterfront property and their right-of-way as a source of income; they have indicated that lease terms are negotiable.
I don’t think this can be right. There is probably more to the story that the state isn’t sharing with you. Eminent domain allows the state to take land for public use. There have been recent cases saying that “public use” for eminent domain can include things like taking private property for a commercial development, as that (at least in a broad sense) benefits the public and therefore is a “public use.” But it would be a huge stretch to say that taking property to rent it back constitutes a public use.

If what is being proposed is a taking by eminent domain, title insurance would not cover that (generally, unless you purchased a separate rider for that). But it what is being asserted here is that the state actually owns the property, title insurance should cover that and the lawyers necessary to mount a defense. If you or others had owners title insurance when you bought, get the title insurers involved now, even if there may be questions of whether the DOT’s claims against you are covered under the policies, as the insurance companies will generally have an obligation to get you a lawyer and pay for it to defend against this unless it is clearly not covered by the policy.
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Old 06-23-2020, 01:47 PM   #20
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I don't think this is an Eminent Domain action... it seems to me that the State is saying they have always owned the land.... if it was originally part of the RR Right of Way, this may be hard to disprove.

Hopefully root1 and the others whose property is being disputed prevail.

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Old 06-23-2020, 02:12 PM   #21
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Interesting... I'll be watching this. It maybe true that those that thought they owned it never did... quit claim deed is only a document declaring someone has no claim to it. Does mean they owned it...
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Old 06-23-2020, 02:37 PM   #22
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As I mentioned in the other thread, this gets murky. The state originally took land for the railroad at a time of very poor record keeping. When the railroad was discontinued some of the land was sold to the town which kept some and sold some. Some of the RR land became Rt 11.

If an attorney is retained for the group, then an effort should be made to find one with directly related experience.

I would hope that the Town takes your side. I don't know if Jim Sessler is still Town Attorney; I do know that he as had some directly related experience. Art Hoover is probably retired however he would know of anyone with direct Alton experience.

Alan
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Old 06-23-2020, 03:55 PM   #23
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Thinking about the ramifications of the situation is exhausting:

While the state is leading us to believe that they have always owned the land; the town, by taxing us, has determined that the taxpayers own the land. Looks like the town is going to get dragged into this mess.

The market value of my house across the street is largely based on having an associated deeded waterfront property across the street. Without waterfront, I would venture that the house property is worth half of its current value, I no longer own waterfront, and I have to pay rent to the state for water access. Well, looks like I'll be working a few years longer than we were planning.

I no longer have a mortgage on either the waterfront property or on the house (across the street), so I have no recourse with title insurance. I hope my neighbors have a mortgage w/ appropriate insurance.

I have a headache, the wife is crying, and the kids are not old enough to understand. Its been a bad week.
Jim
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Old 06-23-2020, 04:20 PM   #24
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Quote:
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I no longer have a mortgage on either the waterfront property or on the house (across the street), so I have no recourse with title insurance.
I have been told that title insurance is good for as long as you own the property. They guaranteed clear title and if they missed something, they are liable. I'd suggest you at least check this with a local realtor or bank.
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Old 06-23-2020, 04:30 PM   #25
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A right of way does not automatically transfer ownership. A fee simple ownership is not transferred because of a right of way.

An example here in Moultonborough occurred when the town cut some trees in their right of way and kept the lumber. The town was required to return the lumber, as it was pointed out, the lumber belongs to the owner of the land, notwithstanding the right of way.

A good point is made and a possible "fly in the ointment":

Quote:
The state originally took land for the railroad at a time of very poor record keeping. When the railroad was discontinued some of the land was sold to the town which kept some and sold some. Some of the RR land became Rt 11.
If former railroad property is at issue, then here's an article that might be apropos:

Quote:
It is unfortunate but true that the term “right of way” seldom controls in disputes over railroad rights. Judges across the country concede that the term has been overworked to the point where it has no real significance in determining the right created. Courts consistently look to the surrounding circumstances of the case to determine whether the rail company took ownership of the strip of land or merely purchased a limited right to operate a rail line over the area described.

https://www.pobonline.com/articles/1...cial-attention
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Old 06-23-2020, 06:44 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crusty View Post
I have been told that title insurance is good for as long as you own the property. They guaranteed clear title and if they missed something, they are liable. I'd suggest you at least check this with a local realtor or bank.
I agree. I don't think title insurance ends just because you don't have a mortgage.

I am a little confused though. It is my understanding that the state bought all the land from the railroad all the way to Lincoln. So how does the town own some of it?

Root, I truly feel so sorry for you and your family-my heart goes out to you. What a terrible thing to go through!! You are right, the value of your house very much relies on the lakefront property. And with all this going on you could never sell and get out of the whole mess-at least until it is settled, which could be years.
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Old 06-23-2020, 07:08 PM   #27
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Default Title Insurance

Title Insurance coverage depends on what you buy.

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/t...20the%20lender.

What Is Title Insurance?
Title insurance is a form of indemnity insurance that protects lenders and homebuyers from financial loss sustained from defects in a title to a property. The most common type of title insurance is lender's title insurance, which the borrower purchases to protect the lender. The other type is owner's title insurance, which is often paid for by the seller to protect the buyer's equity in the property.

I believe (not being certified on the details), If you didn't opt to pay extra for an owners policy then the insurance your lender required you to buy expired when the loan was paid off.
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Old 06-23-2020, 08:54 PM   #28
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Quote:
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I believe (not being certified on the details), If you didn't opt to pay extra for an owners policy then the insurance your lender required you to buy expired when the loan was paid off.
This is right. If you get a mortgage, the lender will require that you pay for a lender title insurance policy that protects the bank in the event it’s collateral, the property, has a claims against its title.

Homeowners are not protected by the lender title policy. Instead, buyers will be given the option when the title work is being done to purchase a separate owner’s title insurance policy, which protects the homeowner if there is ever a claim against the title (regardless of whether there is still an outstanding mortgage).

If one doesn’t have the owners title insurance policy, there is no coverage for the homeowner.
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Old 06-24-2020, 06:35 AM   #29
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Is this like eminent domain? Holy cow!
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Old 06-24-2020, 08:19 AM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by map View Post
Is this like eminent domain? Holy cow!
In an Eminent Domain situation... the State has to pay you to take your land. In this case it "seems" as if the State is asserting it has always owned the land.

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Old 06-24-2020, 04:16 PM   #31
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Default RR Right of Way

This had came up when the Winni Watershed Project used the Lakeshore Railroad bed to put in the sewer line. It was determined the state never relinquished the right of way! Some shorefront owners were fuming yet they had to remove structure(s) off the bed. Others noticed on their deeds and not build on the railroad bed. In our case we just used it as a lawn. When the sewage line was added, they were nice enough to reseed the area.
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Old 06-24-2020, 04:38 PM   #32
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The original Alton section of the RR was not just a right of way. The state took the fee interest in the land and either transferred that to the RR or leased it to the RR. My understanding is that the fee interest was transferred to the RR and when the RR was discontinued quite a bit was sold to the Town of Alton. The Town kept some and sold some. Some of the land became Rt 11. Whatever the details, the overall situation was unique to Alton.

About 10 years ago the Town wanted to make a short rail trail over the section from the Police station to Rt 28. A long court battle ensued. In the end the Town prevailed as the Town owns the fee interest from that long ago purchase from the RR. It was not a case of just an old ROW.

I have no idea how the land which is the subject of this thread fits into the overall history.
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Old 06-28-2020, 12:25 AM   #33
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So the State still actually owns the Railroad right of way? I thought the state gave up their interest in that back in the 1930's when the line was declared abandoned.

Does your deed show a Railroad easement that was never removed?

Can you legally build on that land or is it just a right of way over the abandoned Railroad easement?

Is the State taking the same position on the railroad easement which runs along Route 11 between Alton and Rochester? Anybody know? I think some of that section between Rite Aid and Rochester may have actually been abandoned as late as the 1960's or so.

A very interesting thread for sure!
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Old 06-30-2020, 08:22 AM   #34
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Default Do we really own our land?

Hi Jim,
I’m new to Meredith, where the NHDOT railroad took over the waterfront and leased it back to the neighbors at $33/ft/ yr. However... I also know of one 150’ chunk of Meredith waterfront with a large U shaped dock, & a shed and the state told them they don’t need a lease. And they pay no waterfront taxes at all because they don’t own it. Not fair? You bet! Inconsistent? Yes indeed. Oh, and that 150’ of waterfront is in MY deed as well as others as shared property. Yet one owner took it over and the state went along with it.

I have no mortgage but I did buy title insurance!
Let’s meet up please!
Momma O is offline   Reply With Quote
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