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Town sues over lost tax revenue from state-owned property at Hampton Beach

Union Leader Correspondent

February 15. 2018 9:10PM
The town of Hampton has filed a lawsuit against the state, claiming it's not paying its fair share for maintenance and other issues related to Hampton Beach and summer tourism. 

HAMPTON — After months of threatening legal action, the town of Hampton has filed a lawsuit accusing the state of failing to pay its fair share and saying local taxpayers have been getting stiffed for too long.

The five-count suit signed by Town Manager Fred Welch raises concerns related to maintaining Ocean Boulevard, parking revenues, the town’s costs for fire, police and public works and how much the state gives the town through rooms and meals taxes.

The 17-page lawsuit filed Wednesday in Rockingham County Superior Court also noted that the value of state-owned property exempt from property taxes is approximately $69.7 million. If taxed, the town claims it would get about $1.2 million in annual revenue.

“The state is unjustly enriched by generating millions of dollars in revenue at both the Hampton Beach State Park and at other state facilities in Hampton and by paying very little of such revenues to the town of Hampton for the extraordinary level and attendant costs of the municipal services that are required to meet the demand for same that are generated by the state’s operations in Hampton,” the suit said.

The town says it costs about $500,000 for extra police at the beach during the summer. The town’s population is about 15,000, but soars to nearly 100,000 or more during the summer because of Hampton Beach State Park, the suit said.

Based on an arrangement in 1933 when the town deeded a large portion of Ocean Boulevard at Hampton Beach to the state. the town says the state is responsible for reconstruction and maintenance of Ocean Boulevard and the sidewalks that are “within the layout of the Ocean Boulevard right of way.”

But the suit says the state has “long taken the position that it does not maintain the sidewalks on the Ocean Boulevard right of way or any other sidewalk on state property within Hampton, although it recently has plowed snow from the east side sidewalk of Ocean Boulevard and whenever anyone is injured from defect on said sidewalks the state refers the injured party to the town rather than admitting even the possibility of liability on its part.”

The suit also mentions the civil case brought by Karen Weinhold, who along with her husband, was awarded $9 million by a jury last month after she was injured in a pedestrian accident in 2014: “the town was dismissed as a liable party on summary judgment and the state was found 40 percent liable for the plaintiff’s injuries due to the state’s breaches of duty.”

Among other things, the town wants the state to properly maintain and repair sidewalks on both sides of Ocean Boulevard, accept responsibility for the crosswalks on Ocean Boulevard, and remediate the draining of water that runs off the roadway onto sidewalks and private properties.

Spokesmen from the offices of Gov. Chris Sununu and the Department of Transportation referred questions on the suit to the Attorney General’s office, which could not be reached for comment.

The town is also targeting parking areas associated with a playground maintained through local tax dollars. The town argues it’s entitled to some of the $2.2 million the state collects in parking revenue annually from Hampton Beach State Park property.

The suit says the formula in a state law requiring the state provide 40 percent of net income from the meals and rooms tax to municipalities is unconstitutional because it’s based on its year-round population, not the summer population.

The state must be served with the suit by April 1 and will have 30 days to file a response.

Courts Hampton

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