Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 23, 2015

ME Supreme Judicial Court Holds Appeal Period Starts from the Date of a Vote, Regardless of When a Written Decision is Issued

Pisgah Mountain, LLC, property owners, petitioned for judicial review of decision of town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) which denied their appeal from Planning Board’s decision to approve their application for a permit to construct and operate five-turbine wind energy project. The Superior Court, Portland County, Business and Consumer Docket, remanded for further findings. The Planning Board issued further findings. The Superior Court vacated the decision of ZBA to approve permit application and the town appealed.

In order to determine whether the Superior Court had jurisdiction over the Beckfords’ appeal, the court looked at two fundamental issues: first, does a vote by a board of appeals only trigger the appeal period for purposes of section 2691 once a written decision with findings of fact is issued; and second, regardless of when the written decision was issued, did the operative “vote” in this case occur on January 25 or on January 30? As to the first issue, the court noted that the appeal period runs from the date of the vote, regardless of whether or when a written decision is issued. In this case, section 2691 required that notice of a decision be mailed or delivered within seven days, which, coupled with the forty-five-day appeal period, provided sufficient time for an informed decision whether to appeal.

As to the second issue, the court found that although the ZBA stated on January 25 that it would meet on January 30 “for the Final Decision,” it did not say that it would meet for a final vote. When the ZBA voted on January 30, therefore, its members were voting to approve the text of a document memorializing the decision that had already been made. Accordingly, the court concluded that the forty-five-day appeal period commenced with the ZBA’s public vote on January 25 and that, consequently, the Beckfords’ Rule 80B appeal to the Superior Court was filed late and the judgment would be vacated.

Beckford v Town of Clifton, 2014 WL 7448471 (ME 12/31/2014)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://courts.maine.gov/opinions_orders/supreme/lawcourt/2014/14me156be.pdf


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