Facts: D owns an easement over a portion of P’s property which is used for the ingress
and egress of vehicles. D filed for a special use permit to expand its marina by increasing
the number of boat slips from 84 to 280, which was granted. P objected, claiming this
would overburden the easement because a traffic problem would arise. The cause was
referred to a commissioner in chancery. There was hearing and the commission viewed
the situation and determined: 1. an easement exists, 2. the easement is not limited solely
for domestic use, but commercially by the marina and its customers, 3. the proposed
expansion from 84 to 280 boat slips is a reasonable use of the dominant estate, 4. the
resulting increase in traffic over the easement will not change the type, only the degree,
of use and will not overburden the easement, and 5. paving the easement is reasonable
and a proper means of maintenance
Issue: Will the easement across servient estates be overburdened by the proposed
expanded use of the dominant estate such that P may have D enjoined from following
through on the proposed expanded use of the dominant estate?
Holding: Affirmed. The evidence presented by the commissioner is reasonable
considering the circumstances and the evidence is not plainly wrong.
Rationale:
– As a general rule, when an easement is created by grant or reservation and the
instrument creating the easement does not limit the use to be made of it, the
easement may be used for “any purpose which the dominant estate may then, or in
the future, reasonable be devoted.” An easement created without words limiting it
to any particular use by the dominant estate, is not affected by any reasonable
change in the use of the dominant estate. However, no use may be made of the
easement which is different from that established at the time of its creation and
which imposes an additional burden upon the servient estate
– P here contends that the phrase “private roadway” in the easement agreement was
intended to limit the use of the easement to domestic purposes, thereby
prohibiting commercial uses. The phrase simply distinguishes that portion of the
easement that would not become part of the state highway system, thus it is a
descriptive phrase, not restrictive.
– As such, the agreement crating the easement for access contains no terms of
limitation upon the easement’s use. Additionally, the record supports the
conclusion that the operation of the marina is a use which the dominant estate
reasonably can be, and has been devoted
– P further alleges that the imposed expansion will impose an additional burden
upon the easement. Though there may be an increased degree of burden, the
expansion will not, in and of itself, impose an additional burden upon the
easement
– P further contends that D does not have the right to pave the easement. The
burden to maintain an easement falls on the dominant tenement, and this is an
improvement not a maintenance measure, however, courts have held that an
owner may make reasonable improvements to an easement so long as it does not
unreasonably increase the burden upon the servient estate. Among such
acceptable improvements include paving a roadway.