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Windham Land Trust v. Jeffords

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
967 A.2d 690 (2009)


Facts

Russell Jeffords and Susan Poulin (defendants) owned 100 acres of land. Eighty-five of the acres were subject to a conservation easement. The former owner of the land had created the conservation easement and donated it to the Windham Land Trust (plaintiff). The conservation easement placed restrictions on how the protected land could be used. The deed to the land stated that, other than engaging in conservation practices, the only permissible use of the conservation easement was for “residential recreational purposes.” The owners, Jeffords and Poulin, agreed to be bound by the easement when they acquired the land. Jeffords and Poulin originally planned to use the 15 unrestricted acres for a music festival and to allow the attendees to camp on the protected portion of the land. Jeffords and Poulin admitted that they decided against the campground, because it would have been in violation of the conservation easement. Jeffords and Poulin then planned to use the protected land for fishing and ice skating, available to their paying guests staying on the unrestricted portion of the land. The Windham Land Trust sued Jeffords and Poulin, seeking to stop any commercial patrons on the unrestricted land from using any of the conservation easement land. The lower court granted the Windham Land Trust’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that the conservation easement did not permit commercial use of the protected land. The court also entered a permanent injunction prohibiting Jeffords and Poulin from ever using the protected land for commercial activities. This injunction specifically prohibited letting commercial guests on the unrestricted portion use the protected land in any way. Jeffords and Poulin appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Alexander, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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