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Bangs v. Town of Wells
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT					Reporter of Decisions
Decision:	2000 ME 186
Docket:	Yor-00-20
Argued:	September 8, 2000
Decided:	October 27, 2000

Panel:WATHEN, C.J., and CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, DANA, SAUFLEY, ALEXANDER, and
CALKINS, JJ.




NORMAN BANGS et al. v. TOWN OF WELLS et al.


SAUFLEY, J.

	[¶1]  Norman Bangs and Blueberry Ridge Mobile Village, Inc., appeal
from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (York County, Crowley, J.)
denying their statutory and constitutional challenges to the Town of Wells
Land Use Ordinance.  Bangs and Blueberry Ridge argue that the Wells
Ordinance impermissibly prohibits the expansion and development of
mobile home parks in violation of (1) Maine's statute on Regulation of
Manufactured Housing, 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358 and (2) their rights to equal
protection under the Maine and U.S. Constitutions.  Because we agree that
the Wells Ordinance violates the mandates of 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M),
we vacate the judgment.
I. BACKGROUND
	[¶2]  Norman Bangs owns two large parcels of land that abut a
43.8-acre piece of land owned by Blueberry Ridge Mobile Village, Inc. 
Blueberry Ridge, originally known as Wilson Mobile Home Park, is a Maine
corporation formed by Bangs.  Blueberry Ridge and Bangs are separate legal
entities, but the parties agree that they are, for the purposes of this appeal,
the same parties in interest.{1}  Both the Bangs and Blueberry Ridge parcels
are located in the Rural District (R) Zone in the Town of Wells. 
	[¶3]  Blueberry Ridge currently exists as a "mobile home park"{2} with
fifty-one mobile homes in its lots.  Because the Rural District Zone does not
now allow mobile home parks to develop or exist within its territory,
Blueberry Ridge is a nonconforming, grandfathered property under the
Wells Land Use Ordinance.  Blueberry Ridge conformed to the then-existing
Ordinance at the time of its creation in 1977 as a residential subdivision,
and, thus, its continued use is permitted in the Rural District Zone.
	[¶4]  In 1998, Bangs sought approval to expand Blueberry Ridge's use
by adding thirty-eight new mobile home lots in the Bangs parcels.  In effect,
Bangs's plan was to create a new amalgamated mobile home park with a total
of eighty-nine mobile homes{3} in the combined 132-acre Bangs and
Blueberry Ridge parcels.  Bangs relied on section 3.4 of the Ordinance,
which allows "nonconforming development[s]" to expand "in any manner
which does not increase the nonconforming aspect(s) of the development,"
for the approval of his request.  Wells, Me., Code § 3.4 (May 11, 1997).
	[¶5]  The Wells Code Enforcement Officer denied Bangs's request,
concluding that Blueberry Ridge is a mobile home park, which, by its
nonconforming use, cannot expand in the Rural District Zone.  The Wells
Ordinance only allows expansion of a "nonconforming development,"
defined as "[a] use permitted within a district which does not conform to
one or more of the standards within this ordinance regulating the use." 
Wells, Me., Code § 2 (emphasis added).  Because Blueberry Ridge is a
"mobile home park," a use that is not permitted within the Rural District
Zone, the CEO reasoned that the Ordinance prohibited her from granting
Bangs's request.  In a letter denying Bangs's request, the Wells CEO
concluded:
A mobile home park is a nonconforming use in the rural district
and may not be expanded.  This use is only permitted in the
mobile home overlay district.  
Letter from Wells Code Enforcement Officer to Allan Schwarte (Apr. 21,
1998).  
	[¶6]  Bangs appealed the CEO's decision, and the Wells Zoning Board
of Appeals denied the request based on the same reasoning.  The Board
concluded as follows:
DECISION
It is therefore decided, by a vote of 5 to 0, to uphold the
decision of the Code Enforcement Officer in that Blueberry
Ridge Mobile Village, Inc. is a mobile home park and as such is
not a permitted use in the Rural (R) District and, as a non-
conforming use, cannot be expanded.
Letter from Wells Zoning Board of Appeals to Blueberry Ridge Mobile Village,
Inc. (June 11, 1998). 
	[¶7]  Pursuant to 5 M.R.S.A. § 11001 and M.R. Civ. P. 80B, Bangs
appealed that decision to the Superior Court in a complaint that included
several independent claims challenging the Wells Ordinance.  The Superior
Court (Brennan, J.) denied Bangs's administrative appeal, agreeing with the
Board's interpretation of the Ordinance.  The court reasoned that Blueberry
Ridge is a "nonconforming use," which, under the Ordinance, cannot
expand beyond mere changes to existing structures.
	[¶8]  The remaining independent claims were tried in the York
County Superior Court (Crowley, J.) in a four-day, jury-waived trial.  The
court entered judgment in favor of the Town on all counts.  This appeal
followed.
II. DISCUSSION
	[¶9]  Bangs raises two questions of law for our review.  We review
questions of law de novo.  City of Saco v. Pulsifer, 2000 ME 74, ¶ 5, 749
A.2d 153, 154.  Bangs argues that the Wells Land Use Ordinance is invalid
because the Ordinance (i) violates Maine's statute on Regulation of
Manufactured Housing, 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358 (1996 & Supp. 1999), and (ii)
discriminates against mobile home parks in violation of the equal protection
rights of the Maine and U.S. Constitutions.{4}  On de novo review, we examine
the entire record before us for errors of law.  Kimball v. Land Use Regulation
Comm'n, 2000 ME 20, ¶ 18, 745 A.2d 387, 392.

A.  Maine's Statute on Regulation of Mobile Homes

	[¶10]  We address Bangs's statutory claim first.{5}  Maine's statute on
Regulation of Manufactured Homes, as it now stands, is comprised of two
distinct subsections that separately address municipalities' regulation of
manufactured homes and mobile home parks.  30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358.  Since
its enactment in 1983, the Legislature has amended the statute substantively
at least four separate times.  In order to provide a better understanding of
the statute's current scheme, we review the statute's legislative history.  See
Kimball, 2000 ME 20, ¶ 9, 745 A.2d at 390
.
	1.  Subsection 2, "Location of Manufactured Housing"

	[¶11]  The provisions contained in section 4358(2) were first enacted
in 1983 when the Legislature passed "An Act to Permit the Location of
Manufactured Housing on Individual House Lots."  P.L. 1983, ch. 424 (now
codified as 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(2)).  With this Act, the Legislature sought
to ensure the placement of manufactured homes on individual lots "in most
locations where there is a mixture of housing types and opportunities."  L.D.
1441, Statement of Fact (111th Legis. 1983).{6}  The Act mandated
municipalities to allow manufactured homes in "a number of locations" but
gave them the discretion to exclude manufactured homes from certain areas
in which they would not be compatible with the architecture of existing
structures.  Id.  Since its enactment, we have invalidated zoning ordinances
that have had the effect of prohibiting the placement of manufactured homes
anywhere in town.  See, e.g., Paladac v. City of Rockland, 558 A.2d 372, 376
(Me. 1989).
	[¶12]  In 1993 and 1995, the Legislature amended the Act and
strengthened its original inclusionary intent.  L.D. 397 (116th Legis. 1993);
L.D. 285 (117th Legis. 1995).  With the "Act to Ensure Equitable Treatment
of Manufactured Home Owners" and the "Act Concerning Placement of
Modular Homes," the Legislature added new provisions requiring
municipalities to allow individual manufactured homes "in all zones where
other single-family homes are allowed."  30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(2)(E)
(emphasis added).{7}  Contrary to the discretionary language of the 1983 Act,
the 1993 and 1995 Acts provided municipalities with a simpler mandate:
municipalities may no longer designate areas that are either uniquely
appropriate or inappropriate for the placement of manufactured homes on
individual lots; where single-family housing is permitted, single-family
manufactured housing must also be permitted.

	2.  Subsection 3, "Regulation of Mobile Home Parks"

	[¶13]  In 1988 and 1989, the Legislature added to the original Act a
new subsection regarding municipalities' regulation of "mobile home parks." 
30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3).  In 1988, citing both the shortage of spaces for
mobile homes and a rapid increase in land and housing costs, the Legislature
passed an "Act to Provide Greater Protection to Owners of Mobile Homes
and Mobile Home Parks."  L.D. 2147 (113th Legis. 1988).  In response to an
apparent shortage of affordable housing, the 1988 Act added two directives
to municipalities regarding mobile home parks.  Id.  Municipalities must
permit the expansion and development of new mobile home parks "in a
number of environmentally suitable locations."  30 M.R.S.A. § 4965(3)(A)
(1988) (repealed and recodified as 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M)). 
Municipalities must also give "reasonable consideration" to permitting
existing mobile home parks to expand in their existing locations.  Id.{8}
	[¶14]  In the subsequent year, the Legislature again addressed the
needs of mobile home parks by passing "An Act Regarding Minimum Lot
Sizes and Other Municipal Regulations Concerning Mobile Home Parks." 
L.D. 1205 (114th Legis. 1989).  The 1989 Act repeated some of the same
concerns of the 1988 Act, but this time the Legislature limited the
municipalities' power to regulate the internal density and overall area
requirements of mobile home parks.  30-A M.R.S.A.
§§ 4358(3)(A)-4358(3)(K).  Together, the 1988 and 1989 Acts provided a
legislative scheme that required municipalities to permit the development
and expansion of mobile home parks, while limiting the municipalities'
power to regulate their density and overall area requirements.  30-A M.R.S.A.
§ 4358(3).
	[¶15]  Thus, in its current form, Maine's statute on Regulation of
Manufactured Housing provides municipalities with three general mandates. 
Municipalities must (i) allow the placement of manufactured homes on
individual lots in all areas where other single-family homes would be
allowed, 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(2)(E); (ii) permit new mobile parks to
develop and to expand in a number of environmentally suitable locations,
30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M); and (iii) give reasonable consideration to
permitting existing mobile home parks to expand in their current locations,
id.  These directives constitute an express limitation on municipalities'
otherwise broad zoning powers.  See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 3001.
 
B.  The Wells Ordinance

	[¶16]  With these requirements in mind, we examine the Wells
Ordinance to determine whether it violates the mandates of 30-A M.R.S.A.
§ 4358.  See Int'l Paper Co. v. Town of Jay, 665 A.2d 998, 1001-02 (Me.
1995).
	[¶17]  Only the third requirement is implicated in this appeal. 
Specifically, Bangs argues that the Ordinance fails to comply with the
mandate contained in 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M), requiring municipalities
to give "reasonable consideration . . . to permit existing mobile home parks
to expand in their existing locations.
"  30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M).  We
agree.  Although the Ordinance creates a zone for new mobile home parks, it
limits the development and expansion of all mobile home parks exclusively
to this zone.  Pursuant to the Ordinance, all mobile home parks that exist
outside the "mobile home park overlay district" zone are deemed
"nonconforming uses" that cannot expand beyond their current locations. 
Wells, Me., Code § 2.  Consequently, the Ordinance flatly prohibits Bangs's
mobile home park from being given any consideration whatsoever, let alone
a "reasonable consideration," to expand beyond its current location.
	[¶18]  Nonetheless, Wells contends that it has met the statutory
directives under section 4358, because subsection 3(M) only requires
municipalities to allow existing mobile home parks to expand within their
current locations.  See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M).  In essence, Wells
argues that municipalities need only give reasonable consideration to
allowing existing mobile home parks to accommodate more mobile home
lots "in their current locations" or, in other words, within their existing
borders.  See id. (emphasis added).  Such an interpretation would require
reasonable consideration of requests to increase density, but not to increase
dimension.  
	[¶19]  Wells's interpretation of subsection 3(M) is not consistent with
the plain language of the statute.  See Kimball, 2000 ME 20, ¶ 18, 745 A.2d
at 392 (explaining the rules of statutory construction).  The plain meaning of
the word "expand" means "to make or become greater in size."{9}  Webster's
II New Riverside Dictionary 241 (1996).  Further, the language of the statute
requires that municipalities give reasonable consideration to the expansion
of existing "mobile home parks" as opposed to allowing "mobile home park
lots" or "mobile home park density" to expand.  Therefore, a logical and
consistent reading of the statute encompasses mobile home parks' growth
in physical area rather than merely in density.  See Town of Madison, Dep't
of Elec. Works v. Pub. Utils. Comm'n, 682 A.2d 231, 234 (Me. 1996).
	[20]  In addition, the overall structure of section 4358(3) provides
evidence that the Legislature intended to allow existing mobile home parks
to expand in physical area.  See Home Builders Ass'n of Maine, Inc. v. Town
of Eliot, 2000 ME 82, ¶ 13, 750 A.2d 566, 571 ("the meaning intended by
the Legislature . . . can only be understood in the context of the legislation
within which the word is used").  With the exception of subsection 3(I),
which deals with buffer strips, subsections 3(A) through 3(J) all address the
regulation of areas that are internal to a mobile home park.{10}  After this
extensive list, subsection 3(K) provides a general catch-all provision that
prohibits municipalities from enacting laws that may circumvent the density
and internal area requirements of the previous subsections.  30-A M.R.S.A.
§ 4358(3)(K).  Then, after an unrelated provision in 3(L) specifying the
burden of the developer to prove certain conformities of the mobile home
park, the Legislature sets forth the expansion requirements of subsection
3(M).  In accordance with this legislative scheme, a logical reading of
section 4358(3) leads us to conclude that the Legislature intended
subsection 3(M) to address dimensional expansions of mobile home parks.
	[¶21]  The Wells Ordinance unambiguously prohibits the dimensional
expansion of any mobile home park, except in the limited areas set aside for
new mobile home park development.  Thus, it fails to give "reasonable
consideration" to requests for expansion of parks in their current locations
and violates 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M).  Although the Legislature has not
defined "reasonable consideration," its plain meaning requires, at a
minimum, more than what Wells has done.  Thus, we need not determine
what standards or criteria the Town must apply in order to meet the
"reasonable consideration" requirement.{11}
	The entry is:
Judgment vacated and remanded to the
Superior Court for remand to the Town of
Wells Code Enforcement Officer for action
consistent with this opinion.  The Town of
Wells Ordinance is declared invalid insofar as it
prohibits the reasonable consideration of
expansion of existing mobile home parks.
    
Attorneys for plaintiffs: Catherine R. Connors, Esq., (orally) K. Douglas Erdmann, Esq. Pierce Atwood One Monument Square Portland, ME 04101-1110 Attorneys for defendants: Susan Bernstein Driscoll, Esq., (orally) Christian L. Barner, Esq. Bergen & Parkinson, LLC 62 Portland Road Kennebunk, ME 04043
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} . We will refer to the appellants collectively as "Bangs." {2} . The Ordinance defines "mobile home park" as "[a] parcel of land under unified ownership approved by the Town of Wells to accommodate three or more manufactured homes." Wells, Me., Code § 2 (May 11, 1997). The Ordinance mirrors the definition of a "mobile home park" found in the statute: "a parcel of land under unified ownership approved by the municipality for the placement of 3 or more manufactured homes." 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(1)(B) (1996). {3} . A "manufactured home" is "[a] structure built in a manufacturing facility, designed to be transported in two or less sections, to be used as a dwelling unit . . . ." Wells, Me., Code § 2. "Mobile homes" and "modular homes" are subsets of this category. See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(1)(A) (1996 & Supp. 1999). {4} . "No State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1; Me. Const. art. I, § 6-A. The United States and Maine Constitutions guarantee the same right to equal protection. {5} . See Your Home, Inc. v. City of Portland, 432 A.2d 1250, 1257 (Me. 1981) ("[W]e avoid expressing opinions on constitutional law whenever a non-constitutional resolution of the issues renders a constitutional ruling unnecessary."). {6} . In its Statement of Fact, the Legislature stated: STATEMENT OF FACT . . . During the past 20 years, municipalities have restricted the location of trailers and mobile homes, many of which were unsafe, poorly built and deemed to be an undesirable form of housing. Since 1975, however, the State Government and the Federal Government have regulated the construction of mobile and modular homes . . . to the point where the quality of manufactured housing is now on a par with site-built housing. Efforts to convince municipalities to voluntarily change their restrictions have either failed or met with limited success. . . . This bill requires that such municipalities take affirmative action, and exert a good-faith effort, to reasonably accommodate manufactured housing. L.D. 1441, Statement of Fact (111th Legis. 1983). {7} . Subsection 4358(2)(E) provides: 2. Location of manufactured housing. . . . E. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any modular home that meets construction standards for state-certified manufactured homes adopted pursuant to Title 10, section 9042 must be allowed in all zones where other single-family homes are allowed. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(2)(E). {8} . Subsection 3(M) provides: 3. Regulation of mobile home parks. . . . M. A municipality shall permit mobile home parks to expand and to be developed in a number of environmentally suitable locations in the municipality with reasonable consideration being given to permit existing mobile home parks to expand in their existing locations. A municipality may not select a location for a mobile home park development which is not reasonably suitable because of: 1) Prior lot division; 2) Locational setting within the municipality; 3) Natural features; or 4) Other similar factors. This paragraph is effective January 1, 1990. 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4358(3)(M). {9} . "In construing a statutory term that is undefined in the statute itself, our primary obligation is to determine its plain meaning." Apex Custom Lease Corp. v. State Tax Assessor, 677 A.2d 530, 533 (Me. 1996) (citation omitted). "We often rely on the definitions provided in dictionaries in making this determination." Id. See also Darling's v. Ford Motor Co., 1998 ME 232, ¶ 14, 719 A.2d 111, 116 (Me. 1998) ("In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we conclude that the Legislature intended the generally accepted meanings of the terms to apply."). {10} . Subsection 3(A) sets maximum density requirements; subsection 3(B) sets maximum overall area requirements; subsections 3(C) and (D) provide maximum setback requirements; subsection 3(E) prohibits road frontage requirements on mobile home park lots; subsections 3(F), (G), and (H) provide for regulation of roads within the park; subsection 3(I) sets maximum buffer strip requirements along a mobile home park's boundary; and subsection 3(J) prohibits municipalities from regulating the location of electric and phone lines in a mobile home park. 30-A M.R.S.A. §§ 4358(3)(A)-4358(3)(J). {11} . Because we so hold, we need not reach Bangs's constitutional question. See Your Home, Inc., 432 A.2d at 1256-57.