Ordinance to "Conserve Natural Beauty" During Land Development Too Vague
Description Maine high court struck down as unconstitutional a local land use ordinance that stated that development must "conserve natural beauty." The standard improperly delegates too much authority to local regulators since it has no clear meaning.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Due Process; Legislative Authority; Improper Delegation
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Georgetown (Maine) Shoreland Zoning Ordinance stated that all use developments must "conserve natural beauty." The Kosalkas applied to the Georgetown Planning Board for a permit to build a nine-trailer recreational vehicle campground on their property. The plan was rejected because the Board held that it did not conserve natural beauty. They challenged the constitutionality of the "natural beauty" requirement. The trial court rejected their challenge and upheld the Board's decision. The Kosalkas appealed.
Decision Reversed. "Developers are entitled to know with reasonable clarity what they must do under state or local land use control laws to obtain the permits or approvals they seek." The standard "conserve natural beauty" is unclear. "All development, to some extent, destroys or impairs 'natural beauty.' If the provision means that all natural beauty must be conserved, than all development must be banned." Since this is not possible, the ordinance must be more clear. This standard "is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority and violative of the due process clause."
Citation Kosalka v. Town of Georgetown, 752 A.2d 183 (Sup. Jud. Ct., Maine, 2000)

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