Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maine Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order of the district court granting the Town of Gorham's motion to enforce a consent decree entered earlier in a land-use dispute, holding that there was not a proper record to support the trial court's findings. The Town filed a land-use enforcement claim in the district court charging Defendants with violations of the Gorham Land Use and Development Code. The parties settled the dispute by agreeing to terms set forth in a consent decree, and the trial court ordered the consent decree to be entered as a judgment. The Town then filed a motion to enforce the consent decree, alleging noncompliance on the part of Defendants. The court granted the Town's motion. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment below, holding that the court order was not supported by competent evidence in the record. View "Town of Gorham v. Duchaine" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming the second decision of the Scarborough Board of Assessment Review granting Taxpayers 14.74 percent abatements to their land values, holding that the Board's original abatements reviewed by the superior court after this Court's remand satisfied constitutional requirements. In previous opinions, the Supreme Judicial Court concluded that the Board had erred in denying Taxpayers' abatement requests to their land values. On remand, the Board granted Taxpayers eight percent abatements to their land values. The superior court vacated the Board's decision, concluding that the Board's abatement formulate was unreasonable. On remand, the Board determined that Taxpayers were entitled to 14.74 percent abatements. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the superior court's judgment affirming the Board's second decision granting 14.74 percent abatements and remanded with directions to affirm the Board's first decision, holding that the Board's original decision was not outside the reasonable range of discretion allowed the Board under this Court's precedents. View "Bolton v. Town of Scarborough" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the Business and Consumer Docket (BCD) in favor of the Town of Bar Harbor on Landowners' complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that the Town's Zoning Ordinance Amendment was invalid, holding that Landowners failed to demonstrate a particularized injury and commenced this action prematurely. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an order approving the Amendment, which changed the Town's Land Use Ordinance by, among other things, creating a new Shoreland Maritime Activities District that would apply to the Town's Ferry Terminal Property. Landowners, individuals whose properties had views overlooking the waters adjacent to the Town's Ferry Terminal Property, sought a declaratory judgment that the Amendment was invalid. The BCD entered judgment for the Town. Landowners appealed, arguing that the Amendment was inconsistent with state law and that the court erred in deferring to the order of the DEP in approving the Amendment. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the court's judgment on standing and ripeness grounds and remanded the case for dismissal without prejudice, holding that Landowners lacked standing to challenge the Amendment and that their claim was not ripe. View "Blanchard v. Town of Bar Harbor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of Belgrade Zoning Board of Appeals (BOA), which denied Appellant's application for commercial use of his property, holding that the superior court did not err in affirming the BOA's decision. Appellant submitted applications to the Town's Planning Board for a seasonal dock and boat rental business at his property. The Planning Board denied both applications, concluding that the property failed to meet the minimum lot standards provided in the relevant zoning ordinance. The BOA upheld the decision. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the BOA did not err, and the BOA's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record. View "Grant v. Town of Belgrade" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over certain real properties the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court that Beth Clark had exclusive ownership of the properties, holding that the superior court correctly concluded that Beth was entitled to summary judgment. Sean Clark brought this action seeking a declaratory judgment that he and Jason Clark were each vested with a one-eighth share of the properties as tenants in common with Beth. The superior court granted summary judgment to Beth, ruling that Beth acquired her brother Kevin Clark's undivided half interest through a joint tenancy right of survivorship. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the superior court did not err in its judgment. View "Clark v. Clark" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between Beachfront Owners and the Town of Kennebunkport over who held title to disputed portions of Goose Rocks Beach the Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the holding of the trial court that, under the circumstances of this case, legal title to the property was held by the Town for the benefit of the public. The Beachfront Owners sued the Town seeking a declaratory judgment that each of their parcels includes land to the mean low water mark - subject to public rights to fish, fowl, and navigate in the intertidal zone. The Beachfront Owners also sought to quiet title to their alleged breach property. In response, the Town asserted its title to the beach and the dry sand above it and that it and the public had the right to use those areas. The superior court determined that the Town held title - derived from the original Town proprietors' ownership of common land - to the dry sand and beach in front of the majority of the properties in dispute. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that title to the disputed land seaward of the seawall, including the beach, was held by the Town for the benefit of the public. View "Almeder v. Town of Kennebunkport" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court denying Beal Bank USA's complaint to compel the assignment of a mortgage to Beal by the insolvent originating lender, New Century Mortgage Corporation, holding that the court did not err in denying the relief sought by Beal to compel assignment of the mortgage in this case. On appeal, Beal argued that because it was the holder of the note secured by the mortgage, the court erred when it failed to apply the equitable trust doctrine to conclude that New Century held the mortgage in trust for Beal and that Beal was entitled to an assignment of the mortgage. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) although the holder of the note may retain some equitable interest in the accompanying mortgage, any such interest, standing alone, does not equate to actual ownership of the mortgage, nor is the interest sufficient to establish a pre-foreclosure right to compel its assignment; and (2) Beal did not produce sufficient independent evidence of ownership of the mortgage to compel an assignment. View "Beal Bank USA v. New Century Mortgage Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of Richard Tranfield and Karla Doremus-Tranfield (the Tranfields) on their complaint alleging that Patricia Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the boundary line between the parties' properties constituted a nuisance under both common law and Maine's spite fence statute, Me. Rev. Stat. 17, 2801, holding that the court did not err. The superior court determined that Arcuni-English's installation of trees on the parties' boundary line constituted a spite fence because her installation of more than thirty trees, which created a dense and continuous wall, was done with malice. The court ordered Arcuni-English to remove every other tree along the boundary line, remove the trees that were planted as an additional row to fill in gaps, and trim the trees to a height no greater than ten feet. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the court did not err in determining that the Transfields demonstrated that Arcuri-English had a dominantly malicious move; (2) the court did not err by finding that the height of the trees unnecessarily exceeded six feet; and (3) the court crafted a fair remedy based on its findings. View "Tranfield v. Arcuni-English" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed in part and vacated in part the judgment of the superior court on a variety of claims and counterclaims concerning the use and ownership of certain property in Cape Elizabeth and declaring Cunner Lane II, LLC the owner of certain property, as shown on a 1929 subdivision plan, holding that the court correctly granted Cunner Lane II a declaratory judgment that it held record title to the property. David Smith, Cunner Lane, LLC and Cunner Lane II, LLC (Cunner Lane II) appealed from the judgment. Cunner Lane Owners and Robert Siegel appealed from the judgment with regard to the court's determination declaring Cunner Lane II the owner of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the case, holding (1) the court correctly determined that Cunner Lane II held title to the property; (2) the court erred in making any determinations concerning Siegel's ownership of Brook Road and in declaring certain Cunner Lane Owners owners to the centerline of Brook Road in its entirety; and (3) any adverse possession claims will require additional litigation. View "Fissmer v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court entering summary judgment in favor of Defendants on Plaintiff's complaint alleging attorney malpractice, holding that the court erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to present evidence of causation to proceed with its legal malpractice claim. Plaintiff submitted an application for site plan review for approval of a commercial facility. The town's planning board approved the application. Abutters to the site appeal the decision to the town's board of appeals (BOA), and Plaintiff hired Defendants to represent it before the BOA. The BOA ultimately reversed the planning board's decision. Plaintiff appealed, but because Defendants failed to file a brief, the appeal was dismissed. Plaintiff then brought this action alleging that it suffered harm due to Defendants' negligence. The court granted summary judgment for Defendants, concluding that Plaintiff could not show either that the planning board's decision would have been upheld or that the BOA's decision would have been overturned absent Defendants' negligence. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the superior court, had it originally reviewed the planning board's decision, would have concluded that the board's approval of the site plan did not reflect error. View "MSR Recycling, LLC v. Weeks & Hutchins, LLC" on Justia Law