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The Spirit of the Law VS the Text of the Law

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.
"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.
For clarification's sake: The Botanical Gardens is listed on the Maine corporate name search as COASTAL MAINE BOTANICAL GARDENS, INC.

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,
 made an important point, relevant to the high point of discussion at the meeting, which revolved around whether the Botanical Gardens would be classified as an educational facility, allowing it to expand, or a museum, prohibiting expansion. Sarah Daniel's point, which was never brought up in the ensuing discussion, was that the Botanical Gardens applied and is funded by museum grants.

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:


In 2009, the Maine Public Utilities Commission awarded the Norwegian company Statoil permission to develop an offshore wind project:
  §480-HH. General permit for offshore wind energy demonstration project [1]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

In January of 2013, The Maine Public Utility Commission approved in a 2-1 vote the project proposed by Statoil to build a $120 million deep water wind turbine demonstration project off the coast of Boothbay Harbor.

“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 [1]
Although everyone involved including the team at University of Maine, the Wind Industry Initiative, Reed and Reed a manufacturing company and various member of the Legislature were thrilled with the project and with working with Statoil, Governor LePage opposed it, claiming the company had shown no commitment to working with local resources.

Statoil pledged to award contracts that represent 10 percent of capital spending – amounting to $100 million – for qualified Maine suppliers and contractors. LePage continued to object claiming the deal would be expensive for the taxpayers by raising the cost of energy but others said the increase was slight at only a few cents.

LePage held the signing of the Omnibus Bill hostage to force the legislature to pass LD1472 [changing the status that PUC had already granted to Statoil. The act re-opened the bidding process. Statoil pulled out citing uncertainty in regulations and the University of Maine formed a new public private relationship named Aqua Ventus which submitted a proposal and was granted PUC approval.

LePage's actions conferred upon Maine the reputation of a Banana Republic. 

In 2009, when the Legislature wrote §1026-T. Innovation finance program, making the Maine taxpayer obligated to back up to 80% of investments made by Maine Public Employees Retirement Fund, the Maine and United States Constitutional Ex post facto  provision was invoked which should have likewise applied to the agreement made with Statoil.

Maine Constitution
Article 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.
In the same session that LePage was forcing the Legislature to pass a law violating ex post facto, the Maine Legislature was passing a statute to overwrite constitutional requirements for the placement of fiscal information accompanying bond questions on the ballot. How could the Legislature invoke the Constitution on LePage when they were passing a statute to over write the Constitution themselves?

The lack of constitutional authority which could have saved Statoil for Maine is a systemic problem deeply entrenched in culture in Augusta with roots reaching back through the centuries.

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.

Maine Constitution
Article IV
Part Third
Section 14. Corporations, formed under general laws.  Corporations shall be formed under general laws, and shall not be created by special Acts of the Legislature, except for municipal purposes, and in cases where the objects of the corporation cannot otherwise be attained; and, however formed, they shall forever be subject to the general laws of the State.

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