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Satlak v. Town of Scarborough

Superior Court of Maine, Cumberland

November 9, 2018

JOSEPH SATLAK, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
TOWN OF SCARBOROUGH, et al., Defendants

          ORDER

          Thomas D. Warren, Justice Superior Court

         Before the court is an appeal by Joseph and Candace Satlak from a March 14, 2018 decision of the Scarborough Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) upholding the issuance of a building permit to defendants Pamela DonAroma, Dan Hayden, and Orville Karan for an accessory structure on their property on East Grand Avenue in the Pine Point area of Scarborough.

         Standard of Review

         On an 80B appeal, interpretation of a local ordinance is a question of law that is subject to de novo review, isis Development LLC v. Town of Wells. 2003 ME 149 ¶ 3 n.4, 836 A.2d 1285. In contrast, factual determinations made by a local planning board will only be overturned if they are not adequately supported by evidence in the record. Jordan v. City of Ellsworth. 2003 ME 82 ¶ 8, 828 A.2d 768. Local characterizations or findings of fact as to what meets ordinance standards "will be accorded substantial deference." Thus, on factual issues the court may not substitute its judgment for that of the authorities. Just because a different conclusion could be drawn from the record does not justify overturning a municipal land use decision if there is evidence in the record that could support the town's determination, Twigg v. Town of Kennebunk, 662 A.2d 914, 916 (Me. 1995). To prevail on factual issues, the party challenging a town's decision must show that the evidence compels a different result. Id.

         Record on Appeal

         Defendants' property (2 East Grand Avenue) is a non-conforming lot of record in the R-4A zoning district. The ordinance requires properties in the R-4A zoning district to be 10, 000 square feet with 80 feet of street frontage. (R. 181-82). Defendants' lot has 9, 191 square feet and no street frontage (R. 41). It is not disputed that defendants' lot and the preexisting structures on that lot are grandfathered. Instead of bordering a street, defendants' lot is set between other properties and is accessed by a 10 ft. wide right of way which runs south from East Grand Avenue to defendants' northern lot line. (R. 41). Defendants share that right of way with the Satlaks, whose lot (4 East Grand Avenue) lies between defendants' lot and East Grand Avenue. (R. 1-4, 41).

         On December 13, 2017 the Town's Code Enforcement Officer approved defendants' application for a building permit to build a two-story accessory structure which is located 16 feet inside defendants' northern boundary line, which is the same boundary line where the right of way terminates. (R. 9, 42).[1] The Satlaks appealed that decision to the Scarborough ZBA, which denied the appeal by a 4-1 vote after a hearing on February 14, 2018 (R. 56; Supp. R. 7-10).[2] The following day the Board sent the Satlaks a letter confirming that their appeal had been denied. (R. 57). A month later, on March 14, 2018, the SBA issued a written decision setting forth findings and conclusions in denying the Satlaks' appeal. (Supp. R. 1-3).

         The dispute in this case turns on whether the "minimum front yard" provision applicable in the R-4A zone applies to the defendants' accessory structure. The Satlaks contend that a 30 foot front yard setback requirement should be applied from the defendant's northern property line to the accessory structure, which is only 16 feet from the northern property line.

         Pertinent Zoning Provisions

         The R-4A Space and Bulk Regulations in Section XV.I (D) include the following:

Minimum front yard, all buildings 30 feet
Minimum rear and side yards, all buildings 15 feet*
*Buildings higher than 30 feet shall have side and rear yards not less than 50% ...

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