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Bryant v. Town of Camden

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

February 9, 2016

SUSAN E. BRYANT
v.
TOWN OF CAMDEN et al

         Argued November 5, 2015.

          On the briefs: Ryan P. Dumais, Esq., John J. Moran, Esq., Eaton Peabody, Brunswick, for appellant Susan E. Bryant.

         William S. Kelly, Esq., and Kristin M. Collins, Esq., Kelly & Collins, LLC, Belfast, for appellee Town of Camden.

         Stephen W. Hanscom, Esq., Crandall, Hanscom & Collins, P.A., Rockland, for appellee Breda, LLC.

         At oral argument: Ryan P. Dumais, Esq., for appellant Susan E. Bryant.

         Kristin M. Collins, Esq., for appellee Town of Camden.

         Stephen W. Hanscom, Esq., for appellee Breda, LLC.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 1184

          SAUFLEY, C.J.

          [¶1] In an effort to reduce confusion, costs, and delay in municipal appeals, we today announce more clearly the need for finality in municipal decisions before a municipal entity's action may be appealed to the courts. Specifically, we consider when a municipal agency's decision constitutes a final action subject to immediate judicial review and when, instead, additional municipal decision making is necessary before

Page 1185

an appeal is ripe for consideration by the courts.

          [¶2] Breda, LLC, 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. Because the Inn is located within the Town's Traditional Village District, the Inn was required by the Zoning Ordinance of the Town of Camden to obtain a special exception permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals before seeking site plan approval from the Planning Board. See Camden, Me., Zoning Ordinance art. VII, § 4(3)(e), art. VIII, § 7(C)(11), art. XII, § 2 (Nov. 5, 2013). The ZBA granted that permit subject to conditions and further consideration by the Planning Board, and allowed the Inn to proceed to the Planning Board for site plan review. Before site plan review could occur, and in reliance on the language of the Town's Ordinance, see id. art. VII, § 2(7), Susan E. Bryant, an abutter, appealed the ZBA's decision granting the special exception permit to the Superior Court. The court (Knox County, Billings, J.) affirmed the ZBA's grant of the special exception permit. Although Bryant's appeal from the grant of the preliminary special exception permit was expressly provided for in the Ordinance, we vacate the judgment of the Superior Court and remand for dismissal of Bryant's complaint because the decision of the ZBA was not a final action subject to appellate review in the courts, and the matter is not justiciable.

         I. BACKGROUND

          [¶3] Breda, LLC, owns and operates the Camden Harbour Inn, which is located in the Town's Traditional Village District. In that district, use of land for a hotel is ordinarily permitted only if, among other criteria, the hotel has " more than ten (10) but fewer than fifteen (15) sleeping rooms," with restaurant facilities that " prepare food and serve meals only to overnight guests of that hotel." Camden, Me., Zoning Ordinance art. VIII, § 7(B)(12). The Inn, however, has more than fifteen sleeping rooms, and it prepares food and serves meals to the public--uses that are currently allowed because the uses were " lawful at the time of adoption of this Ordinance." Id. art. VI, § 3(1)(a).

          [¶4] On December 20, 2013, Breda submitted to the Town an application for a special exception permit to renovate the Inn to eliminate sixteen seats from the restaurant and add eight new rental rooms and four new parking spaces. In the Traditional Village District, the " [e]xpansion of hotels or motels with ten or more rooms offered for rent, legally in existence as of March 11, 1985, within a lot of record existing as of March 11, 1985," is permitted as a special exception, " subject to conformity with applicable space and bulk standards." Id. art. VIII, § 7(C)(11). Breda's application included information offered to establish compliance with the criteria for granting a special exception permit, which are related to the size, intensity, and ...


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