Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Cape Elizabeth Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which determined that the Cape Elizabeth Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) had properly issued a building permit to Cunner Lane LLC. An abutting property owner appealed. The court remanded the case for the CEO to deny the application, holding that there was no competent evidence in the record showing that Cunner Lane LLC’s permit application met the requirements of Cape Elizabeth, Me. Zoning Ordinance 19-7-9(A)(2). View "Fissmer v. Town of Cape Elizabeth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the Cape Elizabeth Code Enforcement Officer’s (CEO) issuance of a building permit, holding that the CEO’s decision granting the permit lacked sufficient factual findings to permit meaningful review. The owner of property abutting the property at issue appealed the CEO’s grant of the building permit to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The ZBA affirmed the CEO’s decision. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court’s judgment and remanded the matter, holding that the COE’s grant of the building permit was the operative decision and that decision lacked sufficient factual findings to permit meaningful appellate review. View "Appletree Cottage, LLC v. Town of Cape Elizabeth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of North Haven Board of Appeals that upheld a permit issued by the Town of North Haven Planning Board to Nebo Lodge, Inc. and Nebo Real Estate, LLC. The court held (1) the North Haven Board of Appeals (BOA) did not err in interpreting various provisions in North Haven’s ordinance; and (2) the permit review process did not violate the due process rights of Steven Wolfram, who opposed the applications, because there was a dearth of evidence that the BOA decision was the product of bias or procedural unfairness. View "Wolfram v. Town of North Haven" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the Town of Kittery Planning Board’s approval of a site plan application for development of a hotel on Route 1. The court held (1) the Board’s finding that a pitched roof for the building was not practicable was supported by substantial evidence, and the Board was authorized to approve a flat-roof design under the circumstances; (2) regarding the height of the building, the Board did not err in its application of the zoning ordinance’s height restrictions; and (3) the Board’s decision regarding the roof design and building height did not amount to a variance. View "Balano v. Town of Kittery" on Justia Law

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The Town of Cumberland applied for site plan review of a proposed development involving Broad Cove Reserve property that it owned. The Town of Cumberland Board of Adjustment and Appeals determined that the Town’s proposed development was permitted within the Low Density Residential district as a municipal use. The Estate of Merrill P. Robbins, which owned land abutting the Broad Cove Reserve property, appealed, arguing that the Town’s development was prohibited under the terms of the relevant ordinance. The superior court affirmed, concluding that the plain language of the ordinance supported the Board of Adjustment and Appeals’ determination. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the meaning of “municipal use” as used in the ordinance was unambiguous and that the Town’s proposed facility was allowed under the terms of the ordinance. View "Estate of Merrill P. Robbins v. Town of Cumberland" on Justia Law

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After a public hearing, the Town of Stockton Spring’s Board of Selectman determined that a structure owned by Hollie Beal was a dangerous building or nuisance pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 17, 2851. The superior court affirmed the decision of the Board. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Beal’s contention that the Board violated her due process rights when it allegedly denied her the opportunity to be heard, to cross-examine witnesses, and to have an impartial fact-finder was unavailing; and (2) there was substantial evidence in the record to support the Board’s findings. View "Beal v. Town of Stockton Springs" on Justia Law

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21 Seabran, LLC applied for two permits necessary to renovate a garage on a lakefront parcel. The Town of Naples Code Enforcement Officer denied the permits, concluding that the parcel would have insufficient shore frontage to comply with state and local law. The Town of Naples Board of Appeals denied 21 Seabran’s appeal, concluding that the proposed renovation would add to the parcel a second “residential dwelling unit” for purposes of the Town of Naples Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, which would render the parcel noncompliant. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) the Board’s determination that the proposed structure was a residential dwelling unit was erroneous; and (2) the Board’s conclusion that the parcel failed to comply with the minimum lot size law and rules was erroneous. View "21 Seabran, LLC v. Town of Naples" on Justia Law

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Friends of the Motherhouse, a nonprofit corporation and two individuals (collectively, Friends) filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the Portland City Council’s rezoning of a parcel owned by Sea Coast at Baxter Woods Associates, LLC and Motherhouse Associates LP (collectively, Sea Coast) was invalid. Sea Coast successfully moved to intervene and then moved for summary judgment. The superior court granted summary judgment for Sea Coast. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the Council acted within its broad legislative authority, and therefore, the superior court did not err in finding that Sea Coast was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. View "Friends of the Motherhouse v. City of Portland" on Justia Law

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The trust sought a building permit, to replace a dilapidated 1950s minesweeper deckhouse on the Owls Head property with a new, larger single-family residence. The existing structure is located partly within a 75-foot setback zone from the Atlantic Ocean; it contains a wetland of special significance that would necessitate a Maine Department of Environmental Protection permit before building. The new structure would be located partly within the setback zone, but farther from the ocean, with an addition lying completely outside of the setback zone and not encroaching on the wetland. The Planning Board approved the plan, finding that under the Town’s Shoreland Zoning Ordinance, "this is a nonconforming structure and it may be re-located, further away from the ocean, but not into the wetland ... to the greatest extent practical." The Board of Appeals reversed. The Superior Court agreed, finding the Board should not have considered the proposed addition before determining whether the relocation of the existing structure “conforms to all setback requirement[s] to the greatest practical extent.” The proper analysis would have been to first consider how the existing structure could be relocated to conform and to then consider whether an addition outside of the setback area could be constructed. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court remanded, agreeing with the BOA and lower court, and finding that the Board applied the wrong ordinance section in considering the permit application. View "Osprey Family Trust v. Town of Owls Head." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court considered when a municipal agency’s decision constitutes a final action subject to immediate judicial review. The owner of the Camden Harbour Inn applied to the Town of Camden for authorization to increase the number of guest rooms and parking spaces for the Inn and to reduce the number of seats at the Inn’s restaurant. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) granted a special exception permit subject to conditions and allowed the Inn to proceed to the Planning Board for site plan review. Susan Bryant, an abutter, appealed the ZBA’s decision to the superior court before site plan review could occur. The superior court affirmed the ZBA’s decision. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the superior court and remanded for dismissal of Bryant’s complaint, holding that, while the Town’s Zoning Ordinance expressly provided for Bryant’s appeal from the grant of the preliminary special permit, the ZBA’s decision was not a final action subject to appellate review in the courts because additional process was required by the Town’s Ordinance before a final decision on the Inn’s proposed changes is reached. View "Bryant v. Town of Camden" on Justia Law