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Birchwood Land Co., Inc. v. Krizan

Supreme Court of Vermont

February 6, 2015

Birchwood Land Company, Inc.
v.
Judith J. Krizan

Editorial Note:

This Opinion is subject to motion for reargument or formal revision before publication. See V.R.A.P. 40.

On Appeal from Superior Court, Grand Isle Unit, Civil Division. A. Gregory Rainville, J.

W. Owen Jenkins of W. Owen Jenkins, P.C., Essex Junction, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Thomas F. Heilmann and James M. Cooley (On the Brief) of Heilmann, Ekman & Associates, Burlington, for Defendant-Appellee.

Present: Reiber, C.J., Dooley, Skoglund, Robinson and Eaton, [1]   JJ.

OPINION

Page 1010

Dooley, J.

[¶1]  Plaintiff Birchwood Land Company (" Birchwood" ) appeals the decision of the Superior Court, Grand Isle Unit denying Birchwood's motion for attachment and granting defendant Judith Krizan's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Birchwood's complaint alleged that Krizan was unjustly enriched by Birchwood's construction of an access road and other infrastructure to her property such that she is able to develop the property without contributing to the cost of the improvements. We agree that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and affirm.

[¶2] The facts as alleged in Birchwood's amended complaint are as follows. In June 1982, Krizan purchased a vacant and landlocked parcel, currently described as 43 Tanglewood Drive, for $3000 from the Town of Essex. Because the deed to Krizan's parcel makes reference to a recorded plat, she acquired by law an implied access easement over the portion of the adjacent parcel depicted on the plat and now owned by Birchwood. This is the sole means of access to her property. Without frontage on a public road or access to utilities and other related infrastructure, Krizan's property was undevelopable. In the thirty years of ownership, she had made no effort to develop her property.

[¶3] In December 2002, Birchwood purchased the land surrounding Krizan's parcel to the east, south, and west, including the fee simple ownership of the strip of

Page 1011

land on which Krizan's access easement is located. In April 2005, Birchwood obtained approval from the Town to develop its property, including the construction and extension of Tanglewood Drive and the installation of water, sewer, and electrical lines, and other related infrastructure. The Krizan property was not included in the development approval. As part of its development, however, Birchwood extended road access and water and sewer line connections to Krizan's property. In July 2007, Birchwood completed the road and infrastructure improvements at a substantial expense.

[¶4] After Birchwood completed the improvements, Krizan notified the Town of her intent to develop her property. The Town found that Krizan's lot is now developable because the lot is now located on a public road and is connected to the necessary infrastructure. Consequently, the Town increased the assessed value of Krizan's parcel from $10,800 to $92,700. The fair market value of Krizan's property, as determined by the sale price of a neighboring property, is no less than $117,000. Birchwood has calculated that Krizan's proportionate share of expenses for the construction and extension of Tanglewood Drive and related infrastructure, not including the $2405 water and sewer connection cost, amounts to $50,100. Krizan initially expressed interest ...


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