Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 3, 2016

ME Supreme Judicial Court Holds Decision of Board on Site Plan Review was Not a Final Action Subject to Appellate Review in the Courts

Breda, LLC, owner of the Camden Harbour Inn, applied to the Town of Camden for authorization to increase the number of guest rooms and parking spaces for the Inn, and to reduce the number of seats at the Inn’s restaurant. The Inn was required by the Zoning Ordinance of the Town of Camden to obtain a special exception permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals before seeking site plan approval from the Planning Board. The ZBA granted the permit subject to conditions and further consideration by the Planning Board, and allowed the Inn to proceed to the Planning Board for site plan review. However, before site plan review could occur, and in reliance on the language of the Town’s Ordinance, Susan E. Bryant, an abutter, appealed the ZBA’s decision granting the special exception permit to the Superior Court. The court affirmed the ZBA’s grant of the special exception permit.

The Camden Ordinance broadly authorizes an appeal “from any decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals to the Superior Court within 45 days after the decision.” However, the court noted that the doctrines of primary jurisdiction, exhaustion, and ripeness may not be overwritten through a town’s exercise of the ordinance authority conferred on it by the Legislature. Accordingly, even though the Town’s Ordinance authorized appeal from “any” ZBA decision to the Superior Court, the courts require a final agency decision in order to prevent piecemeal appeals from municipal decisions that do not finally dispose of a matter.

Here, although the ZBA had approved a special exception permit, it has conditioned its permit on the Planning Board additionally approving the use after full site plan review, but the appellate record did not report any Planning Board or code enforcement officer action on the review of the site plan. Accordingly, the court held that the Superior Court’s judgment must be vacated and the Rule 80B complaint dismissed so that the Town entities could have the opportunity to complete their consideration of Breda’s proposed use.

Bryant v. Town of Camden, 2016 WL 489823 (ME 2/9/2016)


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