Penobscot Area Housing Development Corp. v. City of Brewer
434 A.2d 14 (Maine 1981)


  • Penobscot was a private nonprofit corporation that provided housing for retarded citizens.
  • They intended to use property as a group home for six retarded persons who would be supervised by two full-time employees.
  • However, their application for an occupancy permit was denied, based on the following family ordinance:
    • “’FAMILY’ is a single individual doing his own cooking, and living upon the premises as a separate housekeeping unit, or a collective body of persons doing their own cooking and living together upon the premises as a separate housekeeping unit in a domestic relationship based upon birth, marriage or other domestic bond as distinguished from a group occupying a boarding house, lodging house, club, fraternity or hotel.”
  • Penobscot challenged the denial, citing several decisions holding that the purpose of the group home did in fact create a family environment.

Whether the structure of authority at the proposed group home constituted a “domestic bond” within purview of zoning ordinance.



  • The concept of “domestic bond” implies the existence of a traditional family-like structure of household authority, with one or more resident authority figures.
    • In the cases Penobscot cited, that figure always resided in the home. Here, however, the staff members wouldn’t reside at the home, but would be rotating. Thus, a crucial aspect was missing, which was particularly important in cases like this one where the domestic bond is not based on a biological or legal relationship.
  • Additionally, the average stay of the residents is only from 1-1.5 years.
  • “In light of the definitional specifications of the Brewer ordinance reviewed above, we conclude that the decision rendered by the Board of Appeals and affirmed by the Superior Court was clearly reasonable and adequately supported by factual findings of record.”