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Town of North Yarmouth v. Moulton
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MAINE SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT				Reporter of Decisions
Decision:		1998 ME 96  
Docket:		Cum-97-443
Argued:		January 6, 1998 
Decided :		May 1, 1998

Panel:	WATHEN, C.J., and ROBERTS, CLIFFORD, RUDMAN, LIPEZ, and SAUFLEY, JJ.



TOWN OF NORTH YARMOUTH v. HAROLD W. MOULTON JR. et al.




CLIFFORD, J. 

	[¶1] 	Harold W. Moulton Jr. and Rosemary Moulton appeal from a
judgment entered in the Superior Court (Cumberland County, Mills, J.)
declaring that the Town of Yarmouth and the Town of North Yarmouth have
jurisdiction over the Moultons' subdivision and that the jurisdiction is not
limited to a joint meeting pursuant to 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4403(1-A) (1996 &
Supp. 1997).{1}  Because we conclude that the court correctly interpreted the
subdivision statute in this case, we affirm the judgment.  
	[¶2]  The facts are undisputed.  The Moultons are the developers of
Sweetsir Farm, a proposed residential subdivision containing seventeen lots. 
All of the lots are located entirely in Yarmouth.  The only access to Sweetsir
Farm will be via Concord Circle, a northerly roadway connecting the
subdivision to Deer Run Road, a public road in North Yarmouth.   A portion
of Concord Circle, marked on a 1967 subdivision plan as "Reserved for a 
road," is in North Yarmouth.
	[¶3]  The Moultons filed an application for subdivision approval with
the Yarmouth Planning Board.  In February 1996, the Yarmouth and North
Yarmouth Planning Boards held a joint meeting to discuss the application.  
Later, the Moultons received approval from Yarmouth for the first phase of
the subdivision.  In July 1996, North Yarmouth filed a declaratory judgment
action against the Moultons, seeking to establish that the presence of the
access road in North Yarmouth required that the Moultons receive North
Yarmouth's approval of their subdivision pursuant to 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4406
(1996 & Supp. 1997).  
	[¶4]  The case was submitted to the Superior Court on stipulated
facts.   The court concluded that the statutory definitions of "subdivision"
and "tract or parcel of land," see 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4401(4), (6) (1996),
"contradict[] the [Moultons'] argument that none of the 'subdivision' is in
North Yarmouth because only access to the subdivision and none of the lots
or common areas of the subdivision are in North Yarmouth."  The court held
that the subdivision crossed municipal boundaries, and that North
Yarmouth's authority was not limited to participation in a joint meeting
pursuant to 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4403(1-A).  The Moultons appealed.
	[¶5]  "We review the trial court's construction of a statutory scheme
as a matter of law."  Town of Orrington v. Pease, 660 A.2d 919, 921
(Me. 1995).  We interpret a statute to effectuate the legislative intent, which
is ordinarily gleaned from the plain language of the statute.  See Interstate
Food Processing Corp. v. Town of Fort Fairfield, 1997 ME 193, ¶ 4,
698 A.2d 1074, 1075.  The plain meaning of the statute will be applied
unless it would lead to an absurd or illogical result.  See id.  In interpreting a
statute, we must consider the entire statutory scheme in order to achieve a 
harmonious result.  See Daniels v. Tew Mac Aero Servs., Inc., 675 A.2d 984,
987 (Me. 1996).  
	[¶6]  We begin by examining the plain language of the subdivision
statute, 30-A M.R.S.A. §§ 4401-4407 (1996 & Supp. 1997), which provides
that "[n]o person may sell, lease, develop, build upon or convey for
consideration . . . any land or dwelling unit in a subdivision that has not been
approved by the municipal reviewing authority of the municipality where the
subdivision is located. . . ."  Id. § 4406(1).  We have to determine whether
the Moultons' subdivision is located in North Yarmouth.{2}  
	[¶7]  Unless the context indicates otherwise, a "tract or parcel of
land" is defined for purposes of the subdivision statute as "all contiguous
land in the same ownership . . . ." 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4401(6).  There is no
dispute that the Moultons' single tract or parcel of land includes the area
marked "Reserved for a road" in North Yarmouth.  Unless the context
indicates otherwise, the term "subdivision" is defined for purposes of the
subdivision statute as the "division of a tract or parcel of land into 3 or more
lots within any 5-year period . . . ." Id. § 4401(4).  Therefore, the division of
the Moultons' single tract or parcel of land, that included the "Reserved for
a road" area, into three or more lots within any five-year period falls within
the statutory definition of the term "subdivision."  This conclusion, however,
does not end our inquiry.   
	[¶8]  The Moultons contend that they are not required to obtain
North Yarmouth's approval for their proposed subdivision since no part of
that subdivision is located in North Yarmouth.  They argue that a subdivision
does not necessarily consist of the entire tract or parcel of land in which the
subdivision is located.{3}  They read the subdivision statute as applying only to
those areas of a subdivision which will actually be part of a subdivision
development and point out that the area marked "Reserved for a road" was
not included on the subdivision plan submitted to Yarmouth for approval.{4} 
We disagree with the Moultons' interpretation of the statute that "a
subdivision crosses a municipal boundary within the meaning of the
subdivision statute only when it creates an independent subdivision,
meaning three or more lots, within that town's boundaries."
	[¶9]  The statutory definition of "subdivision" depends not on the
nature and extent of development of land, but rather on the division of land
into three or more lots in a five-year period.  See Michaud, 444 A.2d at
42-43.  The dual purposes of the subdivision statute--the inhibition of
uncontrolled land development and the promotion of planned
growth--would be easily frustrated if we accepted the Moultons'
interpretation of the statute, under which a subdivision is defined with
reference to the areas included on the subdivision plan.  Under the
Moultons' current proposal, the area marked "Reserved for a road" will
provide the only access to the subdivision and therefore is an integral part of
the subdivision.  Given the increased traffic flow, North Yarmouth clearly has
a legitimate interest in reviewing the Moultons' proposed subdivision.  See
30-A M.R.S.A. § 4404(5) (requiring municipal reviewing authority to
consider the traffic impact of any proposed subdivision).{5}  In this case, the
trial court's construction of the statute is not only consistent with the plain
language of the subdivision statute, but also with its underlying purposes.
	[¶10]  The Moultons next contend that, even if their subdivision
crosses municipal boundaries, North Yarmouth's jurisdiction over the
subdivision is limited to participation in a joint meeting pursuant to
30-A M.R.S.A. § 4403(1-A) (1996 & Supp. 1997).  Section 4403(1-A)
provides "[i]f any portion of a subdivision crosses municipal boundaries, the
reviewing authorities from each municipality shall meet jointly to discuss
the application."  Id.  Section 4406(1) prohibits a developer from selling,
leasing or developing any land in a subdivision "that has not been approved
by the municipal reviewing authority of the municipality where the
subdivision is located."  Id. § 4406(1).  A municipal reviewing authority must
review all applications for subdivision approval and must "issue an order"
granting or denying approval of the proposed subdivision.  See id. § 4403(1),
(5).  The Moultons offer no persuasive authority supporting their argument
that the joint meeting required by section 4403(1-A) is the sole statutory
requirement when a subdivision crosses municipal boundaries.  The trial
court's interpretation of two separate requirements produces no
inconsistency, nor does it render either requirement superfluous.  
	The entry is:
			Judgment affirmed.
              
Attorneys for plaintiff: Joan M. Fortin, Esq., (orally) Geoffrey H. Hole, Esq. Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.C. P O Box 9729 Portland, ME 04104-5029 Attorneys for defendants: John A. Graustein, Esq., (orally) Deirdre M. Smith, Esq. Drummond, Woodsum & MacMahon P O Box 9781 Portland, ME 04104-5081
FOOTNOTES******************************** {1} Prior to amendment in 1997, section 4403(1-A) provided that "[i]f any portion of a subdivision crosses municipal boundaries, the reviewing authorities from each municipality shall meet jointly to discuss the application." 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4403(1-A) (1996). The 1997 amendments to section 4403(1-A) do not apply to this action. See P.L. 1997, ch. 226, § 1 (effective Sept. 19, 1997). {2} This case does not require us to ascertain the scope of North Yarmouth's review or whether the Town may review those portions of the subdivision relating solely to Yarmouth. Nevertheless, we note our disagreement with the Moultons' claim that the Superior Court implicitly ruled that North Yarmouth can apply its subdivision ordinance to portions of a subdivision outside of its municipal boundaries. {3} The Moultons correctly point out that the phrase "tract or parcel of land" and the term "subdivision" are not synonymous. The statutory definition of "tract or parcel of land" clearly refers to an area of land. See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4401(6). The statutory definition of "subdivision" refers to the act of dividing an area of land. See id. § 4401(4); see also Planning Bd. of Town of Naples v. Michaud, 444 A.2d 40, 42 (Me. 1982) (statutory definition of 'subdivision' contemplates the splitting off of an interest in land by one of the specified means). Notwithstanding this distinction, other parts of the subdivision statute refer to a "subdivision" as an area of land. See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4406(1) ("No person may sell . . . any land . . . in a subdivision that has not been approved by the municipal reviewing authority of the municipality where the subdivision is located . . . ."). We need not determine whether, in different circumstances, a subdivision may consist of an area less than the entire tract or parcel of land in which the subdivision is located. {4} The area marked "Reserved for a road" was included on a subdivision plan approved by the North Yarmouth Planning Board in 1967, in conjunction with the Deer Run Subdivision. The current subdivision statute does not apply to subdivisions approved before September 23, 1971, in accordance with the laws then in effect. See 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4402(1) (1996 & Supp. 1997). Citing section 4402, the Moultons argue that the disputed piece of land cannot be part of the Sweetsir Farm subdivision. We need not reach this argument because the Moultons raise it for the first time in their reply brief. See M.R. Civ. P. 75A(c) (requiring appellant's reply brief to be "strictly confined" to new matter raised in appellee's brief). {5} If a proposed subdivision crosses municipal boundaries, the municipal reviewing authority must consider whether the subdivision will "cause unreasonable traffic congestion or unsafe conditions with respect to the use of existing public ways in an adjoining municipality in which part of the subdivision is located." 30-A M.R.S.A. § 4404(19) (1996 & Supp. 1997). Although not applicable to this action, the enactment of subsection 19 buttresses our conclusion that North Yarmouth has a legitimate interest in reviewing the potential traffic impact of the Moultons' subdivision. See P.L. 1997, ch. 226, §§ 2-4 (effective Sept. 19, 1997) .