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We are thrilled to announce a significant legal victory for Rudman Winchell’s client, Town of Bar Harbor, in the case of Brooks et al. v. Bar Harbor.

Happy family standing on the field at the sunset time. Family is holding cutouts of a house concept in silhouette.

Maine’s Law Court issued a decision affirming the Town’s 2021 amendments to the Town Code concerning the regulation of short-term rentals, which the Council and voters enacted in an effort to address the Town’s ongoing housing affordability crisis.

The plaintiffs claimed the amendments were invalid because the amendment to the Land Use Ordinance (LUO) passed with less than a supermajority, which they claimed was necessary under the amendment provisions of the LUO then in effect.

Represented by Rudman Winchell’s Stephen Wagner and Jonathan Hunter, the Town first prevailed before the Maine Superior Court, which ruled that the supermajority requirement was not triggered based on the language of the LUO in effect at the time.

Plaintiffs appealed and the Maine Municipal Association submitted a critical amicus brief in support of the Town’s position. The Law Court ultimately affirmed the Superior Court’s decision on the alternative grounds raised by the Maine Municipal Association and endorsed by the Town, holding that only a simple majority vote was required for the amendment to become effective, because only a charter can impose a supermajority requirement for a referendum vote. This victory upholds the validity of the Town’s vacation rentals ordinances and represents a significant win for the Town. More broadly, the decision provides welcome clarity to the municipal bar concerning the validity of supermajority requirements for amending ordinances.

Rudman Winchell's Municipal, Land Use, and Environmental Law team.

As always, this victory was a collaborative effort. We celebrate and appreciate everyone at the Town of Bar Harbor and Rudman Winchell involved in enacting and defending these ordinances.

If your municipality is facing similar legal challenges or requires guidance on regulating short-term rentals, our experienced municipal and land use team is ready to serve. Reach out to us today to learn how we can support your community’s legal needs.

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