Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 22, 2008

ME Supreme Court Upholds ZBA Determination of Intent to Dedicate Parcel for Public Purpose

The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine upheld the determination of the zoning board of appeals that when the creator of a subdivision left an unnumbered parcel on an approved subdivision plan, it was intended to be a “paper street” dedicated for public use.  The plan did not contain a written designation as such, and the Court noted that to prove intent to dedicate a parcel of land for public purpose the grantor’s intentions must be clear and unequivocal.  The Court determined that the zoning board’s findings of clear and unequivocal intention to dedicate was not only defensible, but it was supported by the subdivision plan itself which established that the creators of the subdivision designed the three unidentified parcels to be streets.   

Specifically, the Court pointed to the Board’s findings that every lot on the inside corner of an intersection in the subdivision plan, including the lot in question, had radiused corners; that the three unnumbered parcels are the same width and the identified roads; and that the three unnumbered parcels appear to be extensions of identified roads. Additionally, the Court noted that although none of the parties cited it, the “Notes” on the subdivision plan clearly stated that “all streets are fifty feet wide and all corners are radius ten feet” and that the three unnumbered parcels conform to these dimensions.  Addressing the concern that the parcels lacked centerlines and were segregated on the plan from other streets by solid lines, the Court determined that the subdivision creators had good reason to do this since they were only required to build the indentified roads in order to provide access to, and therefore, sell the numbered lots. Since the remaining three unnumbered parcels did not have to be constructed, they were appropriately marked differently on the plan.   The Court was also persuaded that by the end of the zoning board’s hearing on this matter, the majority of the board had concluded that the intent of the original subdivider was clear. Lastly, and perhaps most persuasive, the Court noted that the unnumbered parcels were intended to function as public roads at the time so that the entire subdivision would comply with the City’s ordinance and State law.   

Martin v. City of Lewiston, 2008 WL 223256 (Me. 1/29/2008).   

The opinion can also be accessed at: http://www.courts.state.me.us/opinions/2008%20documents/08me15ma.pdf


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