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Rockland seeks reimbursement from city resident who challenged zoning overhaul

By Stephen Betts | Apr 23, 2019
Source: File photo

Rockland — Rockland wants to recover costs it incurred in responding to a legal challenge to a sweeping zoning overhaul that was later repealed in the face of significant opposition.

The city's attorney, Mary Costigan, filed a motion March 18 in the Knox County Court asking for the appeal filed by James Ebbert to be dismissed because the matter was moot. The motion also asked the court to award Rockland costs incurred in the legal case.

Ebbert's attorney, Paul Gibbons, of Camden, agreed the case is now moot, but argued against his client's having to pay Rockland anything for its expenses.

Gibbons pointed out in his April 5 court filing that Rockland took the action sought by Ebbert by publicizing a public hearing, holding a hearing and voting to properly rescind the zoning overhaul.

Ebbert was one of many Rockland residents opposed to the residential overhaul approved Jan. 14 by the Rockland City Council. Opponents collected nearly 700 signatures and were poised to file the signatures to force a referendum to repeal the ordinance before the City Council voted Feb. 11 to rescind it.

Ebbert's initial court appeal challenged the ordinance. Following the first rescission vote, Ebbert argued that the rescission was done without proper notice.

The council voted again April 1 to rescind the ordinance after posting notices of the meeting.

The zoning overhaul would have reduced minimum lot sizes, setbacks, and building sizes. Supporters said the changes would have created more affordable housing, while opponents said it would adversely affect residential neighborhoods.

No hearing has been scheduled to determine whether court costs will be levied. The amount being sought was not specified.

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Comments (2)
Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Apr 23, 2019 12:09

While I was not in agreement with the zone change, I think the City needs to suck up the cost of the council's actions. The best place to speak is at the voting booths. I find it quite condescending that Mr Terrien feels the need to explain what a power play is to us dumb natives. It is this superior thinking from away that is causing this.mess.

Posted by: George Terrien | Apr 23, 2019 08:52

Did our government decide to petition for the award of "...Rockland costs incurred in the legal case"?  That angle sounds like an interesting story to report (hint to the Editor...).  I may be (probably am) missing some fine points in this story, but the suit seems to me (at least as previously described in the Courier Gazette), would not reasonably be described as frivolous.  Nor was it taken as such by the Council, inferable from Council action to reverse and re-notice previous actions in the power play (that's a hockey term) in front of the petitioners' goal.  Just looking from the outside a thist municipal action, one might suspect vindictiveness, or at least a shaking the stick of punishment, attempting to forestall future disagreement with Council actions, as some have argued here, prematurely, without adequate review of the Comprehensive Plan, and apparently without adequate notice.

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