Resort Sues Northern Pass Over Right-Of-Way

Oct 9, 2013

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

A Campton resort is suing the Northern Pass, claiming it has no right to use an existing Public Service of New Hampshire right-of-way for larger transmission towers.

The suit was filed in Grafton County Superior Court by the owners of The Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club.

The resort already has a PSNH right-of-way and the suit claims Northern Pass’ plan to add substantially taller towers is unreasonable and “wrongfully exceeds” the original right-of-way agreement.

It also claims since Northern Pass’ plan was announced sale of homes at the resort have “collapsed” and the resort is on the verge of bankruptcy.

“So, Owl’s Nest, is for all practical purposes, out of business until something changes,” Tom Mullen, one of the owners, said last month during a Department of Energy hearing in Plymouth on Northern Pass.

In a statement Northern Pass said the right-of-way across Owl’s Nest does allow for additional construction and it has offered to work with the resort about the design of the project.

The statement also said “substantial changes in the real estate market” before Northern Pass significantly affected the resort.

Ever since it became clear that Northern Pass planned to use about 140 miles of an existing PSNH right-of-way some homeowners have been objecting.

They say their easements - which were sometimes granted decades ago - were for much smaller towers than those proposed by Northern Pass.

That raised the possibility of legal challenges.

The suit filed by Owl’s Nest appears to be the first.

But in a 2012 interview Marcus Hurn, a professor at the UNH School of Law, says those who wish to challenge Northern Pass on the right-of-way are likely to have a tough time.

“I’d be pretty concerned if I were trying to represent the landowners,” said Hurn, citing two New Hampshire Supreme Court cases.

“It has been very clear in this state for almost a century that you can’t freeze rights-of-way rights technologically,” he said.