Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Court

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The City Council authorized the City Manager to sell a parcel of oceanfront property known as "the Boat School." Plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the sale agreement was invalid due to the City's failure to advertise in accordance with its charter, and moved for a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale of the property. Defendants counterclaimed against Plaintiffs for slander of title and tortious interference with a contract. Plaintiffs filed a special motion to dismiss the counterclaims of Defendants pursuant to Maine's anti-SLAPP statute because Defendants' counterclaims were based on Plaintiffs' petitioning activity. The district court (1) declined to address the merits of Plaintiffs' special motion to dismiss because it was filed after the sixty-day period provided by the statute; (2) granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiffs' complaint; (3) granted in part and denied in part summary judgment for Plaintiffs on Defendants' counterclaims. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's denial of Plaintiffs' special motion to dismiss, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in declining to consider the merits of Plaintiffs' untimely special motion. View "Bradbury v. City of Eastport" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal before the Supreme Court in this case was whether the notice provision of the Paper Streets Act requires that the person asserting the claim to own a paper street notify all record lot owners in the subdivision that includes the street, or only those lot owners that the person asserting ownership of the paper street seeks to exclude from the paper street property. Barbara Carson appealed a superior court judgment in favor of her neighbors who brought suit to determine if they had rights to use a portion of a paper street that bisected Carson's property in order to access another paper street that provides access to the Atlantic Ocean. Because the Court concluded that notice to all subdivision lot owners is required, the Court affirmed that portion of the trial court's judgment addressing the notice issue. View "Brooks v. Carson" on Justia Law

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Petitioners David F. and Jeannette A. D'Alessandro appealed a superior Court judgment that affirmed a Town of Harpswell Board of Appeals decision. The Board had denied the D'Alessandros' appeal of a permit issued by the code enforcement officer to several subdivision landowners to install a seasonal stairway for shore access over an easement that burdens land the D'Alessandros own in the same subdivision. The D'Alessandros opposed the permit, arguing that the Harpswell Shoreland Zoning Ordinance allowed for only one stairway to the shore in this subdivision and there was an existing stairway providing shore access in another location within the subdivision. Upon review, the Supreme Court vacated and remanded for further proceedings: The Board's finding that "the location of the proposed stairs is reasonable under the ordinance" did not apply the standard as it is set forth in the ordinance and provided no finding regarding the actual question presented by the ordinance: did a reasonable access alternative exist? Thus, although the Supreme Court reviewed the Board's factual findings under a deferential standard of review, here the Board erred because it failed to make a finding as to whether there was no reasonable access alternative. View "D'Alessandro v. Town of Harpswell" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerned a consent decree entered into by the City of Westbrook, Pike Industries, Inc., and intervenor IDEXX Laboratories, Inc. to settle a land use dispute arising from Pike's operation of a quarry in Westbrook. Intervenors Artel, Inc. and Smiling Hill Farm, Inc. appealed from the approval and entry of the consent decree in the business and consumer docket as a final judgment in Pike's Me. R. Civ. P. 80B appeal and the City's Me. R. Civ. P. 80K counterclaim. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed as to the court's denial of an evidentiary hearing and its determination that the City had the authority to settle this litigation through a consent decree declaring Pike's operation of a quarry on its property to be a grandfathered use under the City's zoning ordinance; and (2) otherwise vacated the judgment relating to the detailed performance and use standards adopted by the consent decree that would supersede otherwise applicable provisions of the City's zoning ordinance. View "Pike Indus., Inc. v. City of Westbrook" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from the City of Saco's approval of a contract zoning agreement for property purchased by Estates at Bay View, LLC. Several nearby property owners (collectively, the Neighbors) filed a five-count complaint in the superior court challenging the legality of the contract zoning agreement and the Saco Planning Board's subsequent approval of a subdivision and site plan for the property. The superior court granted the City's motion to dismiss three of the counts, granted summary judgment in favor of the City and Bay View on one of the counts, and affirmed the decision of the Board on the final count. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no merit in the Neighbors' arguments regarding all of their claims except the grant of summary judgment in favor of the City; and (2) the superior court did not err in granting summary judgment to the City and Bay View, as the contract zone agreement met the requirements of Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4352(8)(C). View "Golder v. City of Saco" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 2007, the City of Lewiston assessed stormwater fees on Robert Gladu's property, which contained a small shopping mall and parking lot, pursuant to the City's stormwater ordinance. The ordinance at issue created the Stormwater Management Utility and gave it the authority to assess and collect fees for stormwater management system and facilities. Gladu did not pay the fees, and in 2010, the City filed a civil complaint alleging that Gladu owed the City for unpaid stormwater fees. Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. In his motion, Gladu argued that the stormwater assessment was a tax, not a fee, and that the Utility was not authorized to impose a tax. The superior court granted the City's motion and denied Gladu's motion and ordered that Gladu pay the delinquent stormwater fees, interest, attorney fees, collection costs, and a penalty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under the test set forth in Butler v. Supreme Judicial Court, the stormwater assessment is a fee and not a tax; and (2) the superior court did not err in awarding a civil penalty, attorney fees, and other costs. View "City of Lewiston v. Gladu" on Justia Law

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The Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) and Plum Creek Timberlands, LLC and Plum Creek Land Company (collectively, Plum Creek) appealed from a judgment entered in the business and consumer docket vacating LURC's approval of a rezoning petition and concept plan submitted by Plum Creek for land it owned in the Moosehead Lake region. LURC and Plum Creek contended that the court erred by concluding that LURC violated its procedural rules by failing to hold an additional evidentiary hearing on amendments to Plum Creek's petition. Forest Ecology Network, RESTORE: The North Woods, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine cross-appealed, arguing primarily that LURC erred in approving the petition because several aspects of the concept plan conflicted with statutory requirements. The Nature Conservancy and Forest Society of Maine intervened. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for the entry of a judgment affirming LURC's decision, holding that LURC did not violate its procedural rules and did not otherwise err by approving the rezoning petition and concept plan. View "Forest Ecology Network v. Land Use Regulation Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Chuck Starbird submitted an application for a building permit for the construction of a home on a lot abutting a public easement portion of a road in the Town of Minot. The Town denied the application. The Board of Appeals ultimately granted Starbird's appeal, concluding that the parcel had a private right-of-way because the the term "right-of-way," as used in section 4-501.8 of the Town's Land Use Code, included a public easement. The superior court affirmed but remanded to the Board for further factual findings on whether Starbird's application met all of the factors listed in section 4-501.8(A)-(G). The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court but vacated the portion of the court's judgment remanding the matter, holding (1) the unique circumstances of the matter caused the interlocutory appeal to fall within the judicial economy exception to the final judgment rule; and (2) the Board did not err by granting Starbird's appeal of the denial of his application. View "Town of Minot v. Starbird" on Justia Law

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The Town of Westport Island issued a building permit to George Richardson to build a single-family residence on his property. Abutting landowner Deirdre Dunlop filed a notice of appeal, and the Westport Island board of appeals (Board) affirmed the issuance of the permit. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed the issuance of the building permit, holding (1) there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the Board's finding that Richardon's property met minimum lot-size requirement for construction of a residential dwelling; and (2) the Board correctly determined that Richardson's road lot could be included in his property's acreage calculation. View "Dunlop v. Town of Westport Island " on Justia Law

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The town planning board (Board) granted a dredge-and-fill permit for two culverts on property owned by the Berdeens. Scott Marquis, who owned property abutting the Berdeens' property, (1) appealed the Board's decision, and (2) filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which the ZBA denied. Marquis's main contention was that an illegal subdivision had been created on the Berdeens' property, which he claimed the Board should have addressed in determining whether to approve the application for the dredge-and-fill permit. The superior court consolidated Marquis's appeals and remanded them. In their decisions, the Board and the ZBA each determined that the Berdeens' property did not qualify as a subdivision pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4401(4) and local law. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the Board's decision to grant a dredge-and-fill permit; (2) vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded with instructions to vacate the Board's and ZBA's decisions applying the subdivision law because those determinations were not ripe for review; and (3) instructed the superior court to dismiss the appeal of the ZBA decision as premature. View "Marquis v. Town of Kennebunk" on Justia Law