Post and Beam Equities Group, L.L.C. v. Sunne Village Development Property Owners Association

124 A.3d 454 (2015)

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Post and Beam Equities Group, L.L.C. v. Sunne Village Development Property Owners Association

Vermont Supreme Court
124 A.3d 454 (2015)

LJ

Facts

Post and Beam Equities Group, L.L.C., and Post and Beam of Mt. Snow, L.L.C. (the companies) (plaintiffs) owned two adjacent parcels in West Dover, Vermont. Parcel one contained two restaurants and a parking lot. Parcel two contained a parking lot. Parcel one could be accessed from either Route 100 or Sunne Village Lane. Sunne Village Lane served as the primary access point. Parcel two was bounded by Sunne Village Lane. Parcel two was part of the Sunne Village Development residential subdivision and subject to the Sunne Village Development Property Owners Association (POA) (defendant) and its declaration of covenants. The covenants provided landowners within the subdivision a perpetual easement over Sunne Village Lane. The easement language was general and did not specifically prescribe that the easement could be used for any purpose, nor did it limit the use of the easement. Parcel one was not part of the subdivision. The POA and the companies verbally agreed to allow the companies to close the Route 100 access point and to access parcel one exclusively through Sunne Village Lane. However, the POA later changed its position and stated that continued access would be through a revocable license only and that the companies would be required to abandon the easement. The POA asserted that the covenants contemplated that the easement would only be used for residential purposes, and therefore, the companies had no right to utilize the easement commercially. The companies refused to accept this condition, and the POA blocked access with boulders. The POA also posted signs identifying Sunne Village Lane as a private road for residential use only. The companies filed suit, asserting that the easement over Sunne Village Lane was not limited to residential use and that the boulders adversely affected their business operations. At trial, the court held that the covenants established an easement right for parcel two but not parcel one. The court further held that the commercial use of Sunne Village Lane materially increased the burden on the servient estate and therefore extended beyond the easement rights established under the covenants. Notwithstanding this determination, the court found that because the companies had utilized Sunne Village Lane since 1975 for commercial purposes, they held a prescriptive easement that included access to parcel one. The POA filed an appeal, and the companies filed a cross-appeal.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Robinson, J.)

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