LISBON — Turner homeowners seeking to halt Hannaford Supermarkets' plans to build a store in their village argued before the state's highest court Friday that the town and a lower court were wrong not to block the proposed development.
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court took its bench on the road, hearing this and two other appeals at Lisbon High School in front of an audience of students.
Jeffrey Thaler, who represents Turner homeowners, including Susan Bizier, told the seven-member panel of judges that the Turner Planning Board should have ruled that the scale and appearance of the proposed building does not relate in "harmonious conformity" to surrounding lots, where the footprints of residential structures average 1,000 square feet. The proposed store would be roughly 36,000 square feet.
Thaler also argued that the town and, on appeal, the Superior Court, erred when they concluded that Hannaford's proposed site plan would not result in an illegal, nonconforming lot.
In his 15-minute argument before the court, Thaler said that in the process of creating the lot on which the store would be built, Hannaford would be reducing the size of an abutting lot, called the Jordan lot. That lot would lose enough of its road frontage to Hannaford that the Jordan lot would become an illegal lot that wouldn't conform to zoning ordinances, he said.
"The Planning Board erred as a matter of law," he said. "No lot shall be reduced or created in that way and no permits ... shall be issued until all lots, both the Hannaford and the Jordan lot, fulfill that initial regulation."
The size of the proposed store would dwarf homes in the area, Thaler said. "It's our position that 36 times, as a matter of law ... cannot be in good scale or conformity with the permanent neighborhood around it."
Chief Justice Leigh Saufley noted that commercial buildings, such as grocery stores, are typically larger than 1,000 square feet.
"Your position is that a supermarket cannot be placed in the village," she said.
Thaler agreed that the store Hannaford has proposed cannot be put there.
Catherine Connors, attorney for Hannaford, said the lot would have "plenty of frontage" on Jordan Lane, a right of way that connects to a public street. That's allowed under the ordinance, she said.
Justice Warren Silver said the proposed supermarket would appear to outsize its surrounding buildings, if built.
"It does seem to be the largest thing in that area ... much larger than all of the neighboring structures," he said. "Is that a problem for you?"
"No, your honor," Connors said. The town has no size restrictions. "Shopping centers are specifically allowed in this district."
At the Planning Board's suggestion, Hannaford redesigned its proposed building to include clapboards and gables.
Thaler raised the question of whether the court was the proper venue for appealing the Planning Board's decision, or whether the matter should be sent back to the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.
A decision on the appeal isn't expected from the court for months.