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Stewart v. Durham

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

September 7, 1982, Argued ; October 14, 1982, Decided

Law Docket No. Law-81-252


 [*309]  Defendant Town of Durham 1 appeals from an order of the Superior Court (Androscoggin County) enjoining the Town from enforcing its mobile home ordinance against the Stewarts. The Superior Court held that the ordinance, which excludes from the Town all mobile homes except those located in duly licensed mobile home parks, is unconstitutional in its entirety because of its broad "grandfather clause." In so doing, the Superior Court accepted the interpretation of that grandfather clause adopted by Durham officials. We conclude that the proper legal construction of the grandfather clause saves it and the rest of the ordinance from [**2]  constitutional attack, and we therefore reverse the Superior Court's order.

In 1972, the Town of Durham adopted a comprehensive plan as a guide to the community's future development. At its annual town meeting, held on March 6, 1976, the Town adopted a mobile home ordinance. ] Section 6(c) of that ordinance states, "No person shall maintain and occupy a mobile home in the Town of Durham except in a duly licensed mobile home park." ] Section 4 of the ordinance, its grandfather clause, provides:

The provisions of this ordinance shall not apply to occupied mobile homes lawfully existing within the Town of Durham . . . nor shall it apply to the replacement of lawfully existing mobile homes.

Appellees Kenneth and Nancy Stewart own a piece of land in Durham. Their lot is not within a mobile home park. In August, 1980, they applied for a building permit to move [**3]  their mobile home onto their Durham land from its location in a Brunswick mobile home park. Their application was denied by Durham's building inspector and then by the Town's zoning board of appeals. The Stewarts thereupon sought relief in the Superior Court. The evidence produced there shows that ever since its enactment, the ordinance's grandfather clause has been applied broadly by the Durham selectmen and building inspector. Specifically, those town officials have interpreted the clause to allow the owner of a mobile home lawfully in Durham before the ordinance took effect 1) to keep his home where it was, 2) to replace it with a new mobile home on the same lot, 3) to sell it, together with the lot, to a new owner, or 4) to move it to another lot in Durham, not previously the site of a mobile home (providing that the new location otherwise met the requirements for residential use).

Before the Superior Court the Stewarts argued, among other things, that Durham's mobile home ordinance is inconsistent with the Town's comprehensive plan 2 and violative of the equal protection and due process clauses of the United States and Maine Constitutions. 3 The court rejected their first [**4]  argument, but held that the broadly construed grandfather clause rendered the ordinance unconstitutional, and enjoined the Town from enforcing the ordinance so as to prevent the Stewarts from moving their mobile home onto their lot in Durham. The Town has appealed the Superior  [*310]  Court's decision on the constitutional issue, and the Stewarts have cross-appealed on the comprehensive plan question. We sustain the Town's appeal and deny the Stewarts' cross-appeal.

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451 A.2d 308 *; 1982 Me. LEXIS 786 **


Disposition:  [**1]  The entry shall be: Appeal sustained. Cross-appeal denied. Remanded to the Superior Court for entry of judgment for defendants and further proceedings consistent with the opinion herein.


ordinance, mobile home, grandfather clause, comprehensive plan, mobile home park, occupied, zoning, nonconforming use, replace, zoning ordinance, regulation, aesthetic, lawfully

Real Property Law, Mobilehomes & Mobilehome Parks, Licensing, Registration & Titling, General Overview, Construction & Development, Maintenance & Use Issues, Zoning, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Comprehensive Plans, Constitutional Limits, Administrative Law, Agency Rulemaking, Rule Application & Interpretation, Ordinances, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Judicial Review, Local Governments, Employees & Officials, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Environmental Law, Land Use & Zoning, Nonconforming Uses, Equitable & Statutory Limits, Equal Protection, Nature & Scope of Protection, Judicial Review, Standards of Review