The letter of the law versus the spirit of the law is an idiomatic antithesis. When one obeys the letter of the law but not the spirit, one is obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not necessarily the intent of those who wrote the law. Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, one is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not necessarily adhering to the literal wording.For clarification's sake: The Botanical Gardens is listed on the Maine corporate name search as COASTAL MAINE BOTANICAL GARDENS, INC.
"Law" originally referred to legislative statute, but in the idiom may refer to any kind of rule. Intentionally following the letter of the law but not the spirit may be accomplished through exploiting technicalities, loopholes, and ambiguous language. Wikipedia.
I attended the appeals board meeting pursuant to giving permission to the Botanical Garden's 30 million dollar expansion, arriving about half an hour late but in time to hear presentations by both lawyers. The Anthony family’s attorney Sarah McDaniel,
CMBG’s Mary Costigan, made the argument that the Garden had been approved in the past and that cannot be changed now, calling it a legislative matter, as if to suggest that our town ordinances are written by the state Legislature and not by the town selectmen.
If the argument rests upon precedence, followed by a reference to the Legislature, there is indeed a legislative precedence for reversing a permit granted after the fact. That is the case of Statoil which had been awarded PUC approval before it was taken away:
§480-HH. General permit for offshore wind energy demonstration project Norwegian energy company Statoil wins a request for proposals (RFP) issued by Maine in 2009 as part of the Ocean Energy Act. The act authorized the Maine Public Utility Commission (PUC) to issue an RFP calling for 30 MW of renewable energy, including up to 25 MW of offshore wind and 5 MW of tidal energy, which was awarded to Ocean Renewable Power Co
“We spend a lot of time talking about bringing good business and jobs to Maine –and now we have a billion-dollar company that is committed to hiring local workers for this project and any of their other projects between here and Maryland,” said Sen. Troy Jackson who also serves on of the Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee. “This is an opportunity for many Maine companies to develop cutting-edge expertise on energy projects not just in Maine but around the world.” Maine Insights PUC approves $120M Statoil offshore floating wind turbine project – will produce clean energy and jobs 
Maine ConstitutionArticle I.Declaration of Rights.Section 11. Attainder, ex post facto and contract-impairment laws prohibited. The Legislature shall pass no bill of attainder, ex post facto law, nor law impairing the obligation of contracts, and no attainder shall work corruption of blood nor forfeiture of estate.
I submit that the Constitution is the measure of authority in the case of the Botanical Garden's permit to expand, which revolves around which type of corporation the Botanical Gardens is designated to be classified by the board.
This amounts to saying one type of corporation can build in the wetlands and another type of corporation cannot. What difference does it make in terms of protecting the wetlands? A parking lot is a parking lot is a parking lot, which ever class of corporation builds it.
The Maine Constitution, Section 14, Part Third says that "all corporations however formed are subject to general laws" That means all corporations are equally governed by the same laws.
The Maine Legislature does not write municipal ordinances. The Selectmen do.
The spirit of the municipal law is found throughout the rhetoric in recent town reports which pay service to the fundamental importance of our local water supply. Both the Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor Town Plans share this common concern but the Boothbay Harbor Town Plan includes it in its vision statement. Since the selectmen of both towns have assigned themselves to be a joint economic development council, both town plans apply here. The following is quoted from the Boothaby Harbor plan:
Vision StatementWater Boothbay Harbor cherishes the natural world, which surrounds us: the clean air, beautiful landscapes of woods, fields, water, and rock, and amazingly diverse habitats and fisheries. There is one “resource” that is dominant, that seems to pervade all aspects of our environment, and of our community’s current and future development – water. Fresh water, tidal flats, wetlands, and coastal and ocean waters – water is integral to most every aspect of life in Boothbay Harbor. From shellfish and fishery resources, wildlife habitats, scenic views and recreation, to shipbuilding, real estate and tourism, these assets are the foundation of this community, our sense of place and our economic future. The diverse ways we enjoy and use these assets are both complementary and competitive. In addition, the community recognizes the continuing risks of flooding and sea-level rise. Boothbay Harbor’s future requires a more holistic and responsible stewardship to protect water quality, improve and manage public access to the water, and encourage new, compatible maritime uses by linking together development standards, economic incentives, infrastructure improvements, public education, and resource monitoring. We Envision That…
The water quality in Adams and Knickerbocker Ponds will continue to meet or exceed state and federal standards.
Boothbay Harbor’s work in coordination with state and federal agencies will continue to improve the quality of harbor and coastal waters and benefit local fisheries, boating, aquaculture, and tourism sectors.
The Town will monitor rising sea levels and storm surges, and take steps to plan to protect susceptible areas or reduce potential adverse impacts. Significant natural habitats will be preserved and maintained. See Goals and Objectives for more specific recommendations and implementation steps.
Reverence for protecting our water supply, expressed in both town reports, stands as representation of the spirit of the law.
Rather than regulating corporate classifications as applied to expansion in wetlands so that one type of corporation can and another cannot, in order to be consistent with the Maine Constitution, the ordinances should be written as general rules applying to all corporations alike in regards to the protection of our wetlands.