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Cayer v. Town of Madawaska

Supreme Court of Maine

September 15, 2016

RICHARD CAYER et al.
v.
TOWN OF MADAWASKA

          On Briefs: May 26, 2016

         On the briefs:

          Luke M. Rossignol, Esq., Bemis & Rossignol, LLC, Presque Isle, for appellants Richard and Ann Cayer

          John J. Wall, III, Esq., and Matthew K. Libby, Esq., Monaghan Leahy, LLP, Portland, for appellee Town of Madawaska

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

          ALEXANDER, J.

         [¶1] Richard and Ann Cayer appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court (Aroostook County, Hunter, J.) dismissing, as untimely, their appeal from decisions of the Madawaska Board of Select People declining the Cayers requests to schedule an advisory referendum, pursuant to former 30-A M.R.S. § 2171-D (2012), on the Cayers petition, pursuant to 30-A M.R.S. § 2171-B (2015), seeking to have their properties within the Town of Madawaska secede from the Town.[1] Because the court did not err in determining that the appeal was untimely, we affirm.

         I. CASE HISTORY

         [¶2] In this appeal from an order on a petition for review of governmental action pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 80B, we draw the facts from the statements of material facts, M.R. Civ. P. 56(h), including what purports to be the record of the municipal decision, that appear in the summary judgment record. Summary judgment is appropriate when review of the parties statements of material facts and the record evidence to which the statements refer, considered in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here the Cayers, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact that is in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Remmes v. Mark Travel Corp. 2015 ME 63, ¶ 18, 116 A.3d 466.

         [¶3] On May 28, 2013, the Cayers filed a petition to secede from the Town of Madawaska pursuant to 30-A M.R.S. 2171-B. Since its enactment in 1999, P.L. 1999, ch. 381, § 2, section 2171-B has specified:

The secession process may be initiated by submitting to the municipal officers a petition signed by more than 50% of the registered voters within the secession territory that requests a municipal public hearing for the purpose of discussing whether the specified territory should secede from the municipality. The petition must set forth the physical boundaries of the secession territory, the resident population, the nonresident population and a list of not more than 5 people who will serve as representatives of the secession territory. For purposes of this subchapter, "secession territory" means the area described in the petition for secession.
The registrar of voters of the municipality shall verify the signatures on the petition within 30 days of the receipt of the petition.

         [¶4] The "secession territory" identified in the petition consists of six parcels of land owned by the Cayers; the only residents of the territory were the Cayers. The Town Manager determined that the Cayers petition to secede complied with section 2171-B. However, no public hearing was scheduled pursuant to former 30-A M.R.S. § 2171-C (2012), which, without setting a time within which a hearing shall be scheduled, stated that "[u]pon receipt of a petition with the required number of verified signatures, the municipal officers shall call and hold a public hearing. The purpose of the public hearing is to allow municipal residents, officers and residents in the secession territory to discuss secession." Id.

         [¶5] The statements of material fact indicate that Town officials were uncertain about application of the law and contacted a legislator and the Maine Municipal Association regarding that uncertainty.

         [¶6] On July 1, 2013, the Legislature enacted and the Governor approved a bill, L.D. 1561 (126th Legis. 2013), becoming P.L. 2013, ch. 384 (emergency legislation, effective July 1, 2013). The new law changed the Legislatures practice for receiving and considering secession petitions. The new practice requires that, before any municipality conducts any advisory referendum on a petition to secede, a representative from the secession territory must first ...


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