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Woodworth v. Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust, Inc.

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

May 5, 2015

MERRILL WOODWORTH, Personal Representative for the ESTATE OE MERRILL P. ROBBLNS, Plaintiff
v.
CHEBEAGUE & CUMBERLAND LAND TRUST, INC. and INHABITANTS OF THE TOWN OF CUMBERLAND, Defendants

ORDER ON MOTIONS TO DISMISS

Nancy Mills, Justice

Two motions arc before the court: (1) defendant Town of Cumberland's motion to dismiss plaintiffs complaint; and (2) defendant Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust's morion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. Both defendants challenge plaintiff's standing and argue that the case is not ripe for review. The Town also argues that the complaint must be dismissed to the extent it relates to the trail casement on the property because those disputes must be submitted to arbitration. For the following reasons, the motions are granted.

FACTS

The following facts are taken from plaintiff's complaint and the conservation easement at issue. Moody v. State Liquor & Lottery Comm'n, 2004 ME 20 ¶10, 843 A.2d 43 (allowing court to consider public documents central to the claims in the complaint on a motion to dismiss). On December 23, 1997, Marion B. Pay son executed the conservation easement at issue, which covers a 100-acre parcel of coastal land in Cumberland, Maine. (Compl. ¶ 6.) Defendant Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust (CCLT) is the holder of the easement. (Compl. ¶ 3.) CCLT is responsible for enforcing the terms of the easement. (Compl. ¶ 31; Town's Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A, at 6-7.) One provision of the conservation easement concerns a public trail on the property and requires the parties to arbitrate specific disputes related to the trail. (Conservation Easement, at 28.)

The Estate owns a small portion of the original 100-acre parcel.[1] The remainder was conveyed to Spears Hill, LLC. (Compl. ¶ 7.) Spears Hill sold a portion of the property to defendant Town of Cumberland. (Compl. ¶¶ 21-22.)

Plaintiff alleges the Town intends to construct a public facility on the property it owns and that construction would violate the terms of the conservation easement. (Compl. ¶¶ 23, 28.) Plaintiff alleges the Cumberland Planning Board approved a subdivision plan that approves a portion of the road that is part of the facility. (Compl. ¶ 48.) Plaintiff alleges that CCLT intends to allow the Town to construct the facility, despite having the enforcement power to block development. (Compl. ¶¶1 31-32.)

Plaintiff filed this suit to enforce the conservation easement and prevent the Town from constructing the facility. The issues before the court are whether plaintiff has standing to sue and whether the case is ripe for decision.

DISCUSSION

1. Standing

"Whether a party has standing to bring a claim is a jurisdictional question." N. E. Ins. Co. v. Young, 2011 ME 89, 111, 26 A.3d 794. The particular interest or injury required for standing "and the source of that requirement- whether statutory- or common-law based-varies based on the type of claims being alleged." Bank of Am., N. A. v. Greenleaf, 2014 ME 89');"> 2014 ME 89, 7, 96 A.3d 700. In general, litigants may not assert the rights of third parties. N. E. Ins. Co., 2011 ME 89, ¶11, 26 A.3d 794.

a. Statutory Standing

Maine's law explicitly identifies those individuals who may bring a cause of action affecting a conservation easement:

An action affecting a conservation easement may be brought or ...

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