D. Warren, Justice
the court is an appeal by PineCrest Bed and Breakfast Inn LLC
from a March 24, 2016 notice of violation issued by the
Gorham Fire Department. The notice of violation asserted two
fire code violations, but the parties agree that only one of
those - an alleged violation based on PineCrest's failure
to have a commercial range hood in the inn's kitchen- is
the subject of this appeal.
primary argument is that the notice of violation and the
record do not contain findings of fact sufficient to allow
meaningful judicial review.
of a municipal decision under Rule 80B is for the purpose of
determining whether there was an abuse of discretion, an
error of law, or findings not supported by substantial
evidence. E.g., Camp v. Town of Shapleigh, 2008 ME
53 ¶ 9, 943 A.2d 595, 598.Substantial evidence is evidence
that a reasonable mind would accept as sufficient to form a
conclusion even if the evidence would also support a contrary
conclusion. Sproul v. Town of Boothbay Harbor, 2000
ME 30 ¶ 8, 746 A.2d 368, 372.
Court has held that in many cases, in order to allow
meaningful judicial review, the municipal agency must
articulate the necessary findings of fact. E.g.,
Christian Fellowship & Renewal Center v. Town of
Limington, 2001 ME 16 ¶¶ 12, 14-18, 769 A.2d
834. Where the municipality's findings are insufficient
to apprise the reviewing court of the basis for the municipal
decision and whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence, remand is appropriate. Id. ¶¶
14-15; Wells v. Portland Yacht Club, 2001 ME 20
¶ 10, 771 A.2d 371.
there is no hard and fast rule that when agencies have failed
to articulate findings of fact, the case must be remanded.
Christian Fellowship, 2001 ME 16 ¶ 19. In some
cases the subsidiary facts may be obvious or easily inferred
from the record and the general factual findings, and remand
is unnecessary. Wells v. Portland Yacht Club, 2001
ME 20 ¶ 10; Christian Fellowship, 2001 ME 16
case the notice of violation states only:
A commercial hood with built in fire suppression system is
required in your kitchen as the kitchen is being used in your
off-site catering business; this is required by the Life
Safety Code 101 and NFPA 96 Standards for Commercial Cooking
notice sets forth only the most cursory findings of fact and
does not set forth the specific sections of the Fire Code
that are alleged to be violated. Accordingly, a remand is
required unless the necessary facts can be inferred from the
record and are essentially uncontested.
fact, the necessary facts can readily be inferred from the
record. First, although the Fire Code and NFPA Standard 96 -
the standard applicable to commercial cooking equipment - do
not define "commercial, " the ordinary meaning of
commercial means used in commerce. The record establishes it
is not disputed that PineCrest is using its cooking equipment
complaint alleges that the bed and breakfast operates with
seven guest rooms and houses a restaurant that can
accommodate a maximum of 20 guests and serves 8 or 9 guests
per night on average. Complaint ¶¶ 14-15.
PineCrest's complaint also alleges that the Inn has
provided catering services for small on-site and off-site
events. Id. ¶ 17.
brief PineCrest asserts that "as a practical matter, the
restaurant was closed as of October 2015." PineCrest Br.
2. This fact is not contained in the administrative record.
In any event, the record demonstrates that as of the time
that notice of violation was issued, the Town had informed
PineCrest that a commercial range hood would not be required
if all PineCrest was doing was providing a continental
breakfast to overnight guests. (Supp. R. 111). However,
PineCrest objected, stating that if only continental
breakfasts were allowed, "Have you any idea what that
would cost in terms of lost revenue?" (Supp. R. 108).
PineCrest's emails also object to the imposition of
commercial cooking requirements based on the claim that they
were not being applied to home catering businesses. (Supp. R.
110). When PineCrest complains that "you cannot strip
away the revenue source of a business" (Supp. R. 110),
it is acknowledging that it is using its kitchen for
some or all of the specific code provisions at issue are
identified in an October 15, 2015 response from PineCrest to
the Fire Department's initial report, which contained a
long list of potential violations, many of which on the list
were eventually corrected or otherwise resolved.
PineCrest's October 15, 2015 response (R. 10-13)