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Wolfram v. Town of North Haven

Supreme Court of Maine

June 6, 2017

STEVEN WOLFRAM et al.
v.
TOWN OF NORTH HAVEN et al.

          Argued: February 8, 2017

         Reporter of Decisions

          Matthew D. Manahan, Esq., and Catherine R. Connors, Esq. (orally), Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland, for appellants Steven Wolfram and the Mullins Development Trust

          Paul L. Gibbons, Esq. (orally), Camden, for appellee Town of North Haven

          Thomas B. Federle, Esq. (orally), Federle Law, LLC, Portland, for appellees Nebo Lodge, Inc., and Nebo Real Estate, LLC

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

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶1] Steven Wolfram and the Mullins Development Trust appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court (Knox County, Billings, J.) affirming a decision of the Town of North Haven Board of Appeals upholding a permit issued by the Town of North Haven Planning Board to Nebo Lodge, Inc., and Nebo Real Estate, LLC. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In October 2013, Nebo Lodge, Inc., and Nebo Real Estate, LLC, (collectively, Nebo Lodge) filed an application for a land use permit. Nebo Lodge, which operates an inn and restaurant in North Haven, sought to tear down "the bungalow"-one of two existing structures on the property-and rebuild it as "the annex." The other structure, "the lodge, " houses the inn and restaurant. The lodge was previously renovated and expanded in 2009 and 2010.

         [¶3] In addition to increasing the size of the annex structure, Nebo Lodge proposed a change in use, including two bedrooms for staff; an office; storage for food, bikes, trash, and recycling; and a kitchen for processing, refrigerating, and freezing food. Nebo Lodge submitted a second application for a land use permit seeking authorization for "wrecking, " described as a "partial tear down" that would leave a "small piece" of the previous bungalow structure intact.

         [¶4] The Planning Board held three public hearings on October 30 and November 3 and 4, 2013. Steven Wolfram, who owns property across the street from the Nebo Lodge property, opposed the applications.[1] On November 13, 2013, the Planning Board approved the applications with conditions.

         [¶5] Wolfram appealed to the North Haven Board of Appeals (BOA), and the BOA held hearings on March 12 and 17, 2014.[2] See North Haven, Me., Land-Use Ordinance § 5.5 (Feb. 16, 2010). Four BOA members recused themselves due to conflicts of interest, and they were replaced by other individuals believed to have no conflicts. The BOA accepted evidence and made factual findings. The BOA affirmed the Planning Board decision in a written decision with findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         [¶6] Wolfram appealed to the Superior Court, contending that the BOA erred in interpreting various provisions in North Haven's Ordinance and that the permit review process violated his due process rights.[3] See 30-A M.R.S. § 2691(4) (2016); M.R. Civ. P. 8OB. The court affirmed the BOA's decision. Wolfram appealed. See M.R. Civ. P. 8OB(n); M.R. App. P. 2.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         [¶7] "Our review of administrative decision-making is deferential and limited." Beal v. Town of Stockton Springs,2017 ME 6, ¶ 13, 153 A.3d 768. "When a zoning board of appeals acts as the tribunal of original jurisdiction as both fact finder and decision maker, [4] we review its decision directly for errors of law, abuse of discretion, or findings not supported by substantial evidence in the record." Brackett v. Town of Rangeley,2003 ME 109, ¶ 15, 831 A.2d 422. Ordinances are construed de novo. Merrill v. Town of Durham, 2007 ME 50, ¶ 7, 918 A.2d 1203. As the party seeking to vacate ...


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