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Maine Land Use Regulation Comm'n v. White

Citation: 17 ELR 20691
No. Nos. CV-81-37, -81-129, 521 A.2d 710/(Me., 02/27/1987)

The court holds that landowners in a deer wintering area zoned for wildlife habitat protection illegally harvested timber without obtaining a Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) permit, and that the protective zoning designation of the property was not an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation or a violation of procedural due process. The court first holds that LURC's protective zoning binds the current landowners regardless of whether plaintiffs' predecessor in interest agreed to the zoning. The court then holds that the statutory maximum fine of $500 is per day of violation, not per tree illegally cut. Although it is true that cutting a single tree could cause a violation, LURC's conclusion that each tree cut constitutes a separate violation is not supported by the language of the statutes or regulations. The court holds that LURC's denial of plaintiffs' petition to rezone the property because of changed conditions is supported by substantial evidence. The regulations state that cutting that causes a designated wildlife protection area to become less suitable for wildlife habitat protection shall not be reduced in size simply for that reason; this applies particularly where plaintiffs' own illegal timber cutting made the land less suitable for protective zoning. The court holds that the zoning designation was not an unconstitutional taking of private property without just compensation. Even if the zoning restriction affected a significant proportion of plaintiffs' property, the restriction took effect before plaintiffs purchased the land and did not substantially reduce the land's value. Finally, the court holds that the zoning did not violate plaintiffs' procedural due process rights. LURC filed all relevant zoning maps with the Registry of Deeds, which provided adequate notice to subsequent purchasers of affected lands.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Paul Stern, Ass't Attorney General
State House Station #6, Augusta ME 04333
(207) 289-3661

Counsel for Defendant
Laurie A. Gibson
Skelton, Taintor, Abbot & Orestis
95 Main St., P.O. Box 3200, Auburn ME 04210
(207) 784-1371

Before McKUSICK, C.J., and NICHOLS, ROBERTS, WATHEN, GLASSMAN and SCOLNIK, JJ.

All Concurring.