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LLC v. Town of Naples

Superior Court of Maine

February 23, 2016

21 SEABRAN, LLC, Petitioner
v.
TOWN OF NAPLES, Respondent

Plaintiffs Attorney DAVID A. GOLDMAN, ESQ PAUL F. DRISCOLL, ESQ NORMAN, HANSON, & DETROY, LLC.

Defendant's Attorney SALLY DAGGETT ESQ

ORDER ON PETITIONER'S RULE 80B APPEAL

JUSTICE COLE

Before the court is petitioner 21 Seabran, LLC's Rule 8OB appeal challenging respondent Town of Naples' denial of its application for two permits necessary to renovate a garage and the subsequent denial of petitioner's appeal to the Board of Appeals (Board). For the following reasons, the court affirms the Board's decision.

I. FACTS

Petitioner is a Maine limited liability company with Anne Snodgrass as its sole member. Petitioner owns property located at 21 Seabran Lane in Naples, Maine (the property). (Rule 80B record at 1) (hereinafter "R. ___ .") The property consists of 170, 319 square feet and approximately 200 feet of frontage on the shore of Brandy Pond. (R. 3, 103.) It is located in a shoreland area as defined by Maine's Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act.[1] (R. 103.) The property is improved by a three-bedroom single-family residence, which is seasonally occupied by Anne and Francis Snodgrass, and a detached 30' by 40' garage. (R. 101-103.) The Snodgrasses wish to renovate the garage to provide accommodations for visitors. (R. 101.) The renovation would involve constructing three bedrooms, two bathrooms, one sitting room, and a washer/dryer on the second floor of the garage, as well as a wastewater disposal system. (R. 4, 104.)

On September 25, 2014, Mills Whitaker Architects submitted on behalf of petitioner applications for a building permit and a subsurface wastewater disposal system permit. (R. 10-11, 103-104.) The design flow specified in the wastewater permit was 270 gallons per day (gpd). (R. 10.) Both applications referred to the renovated garage as a "bunkhouse." (R. 10-11, 103-104.) Maine's Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Rules define "bunkhouse" as a detached bedroom with no plumbing and a design flow of 20 gpd per bed. (R. 61-62.) On October 21, 2014, the Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) for the Town of Naples (Town) informed petitioner that she was taking no action on the applications because the renovated garage did not meet this definition. (R. 11.) On October 24, 2014, Mills Whitaker Architects submitted amended applications that omitted the term "bunkhouse" but were otherwise identical to the original applications. (R. 1-9, 104.)

On November 17, 2014, the CEO denied petitioner's amended applications because she determined that the renovated garage was a "residential dwelling unit" and the property lacked sufficient lot area and shore frontage to serve two residential dwelling units. (R. 12-13.) On December 15, 2014, petitioner appealed to the Board, which denied the appeal on February 24, 2015. (R. 14-17, 101-102.) The Board issued a decision on March 3, 2015 that affirmed the CEO's denial on the ground that the property lacked sufficient shore frontage. (R. 103-106.) Petitioner appealed to this court on April 7, 2015. A hearing was held on November 30, 2015.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

The party challenging the decision of a municipal board has the burden of demonstrating an error of law, an abuse of discretion, or findings not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Aydelott v. City of Portland, 2010 ME 25, ¶ 10, 990 A.2d 1024 (citation omitted). The court reviews the interpretation of municipal ordinances de novo. Nugent v. Town of Camden, 1998 ME 92, ¶ 7, 710 A.2d 245. "However, local characterizations or fact-findings as to what meets ordinance standards will be accorded 'substantial deference.'" Rudolph v. Golick, 2010 ME 106, ¶ 8, 8 A.3d 684 (quoting Jordan v. City of Ellsworth, 2003 ME 82, ¶ 9, 828 A.2d 768). "[T]he words used in an ordinance should be given their plain and ordinary meaning." Merrill v. Town of Durham, 2007 ME 50, ¶ 14, 918 A.2d 1203. The court may "affirm, reverse, or modify the decision under review or may remand the case . . . ." M.R. Civ. P. 80B(c).

B. Wastewater Permit

The Town argues that the permit would violate both state and local law because the renovated garage is a residential dwelling unit and the property must therefore comply with more restrictive frontage requirements. Because the property does not comply with these requirements, the Town argues that the CEO properly denied the permit. Petitioner argues that the permit would comply with state and local law because the renovated garage is an ...


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