By State Senator Tim NangleIf you're like me, you live in this area because of its natural beauty and access to both summer and winter outdoor recreation activities. The communities in our region rely on water bodies for recreation and to bring visitors to enjoy what we have in our backyard daily.
|State Senator Tim Nangle
For those who might not know, the state government creates rules on how the land near our lakes and rivers should be used to protect these areas, known as “shoreland zoning.” The state's involvement ends there. Once these rules are made, it’s up to each municipality to adopt local ordinances and enforce them. The state does not assist in enforcing shoreland zoning in any way. Instead, it’s up to the local communities to fight the battle, often with no other tools at their disposal than a lengthy and expensive court battle.
Many shoreland zoning violations are genuinely accidental, and the property owner works with the town to resolve the violation quickly and willingly. Unfortunately, there are other violations where a property owner with deep pockets considers the violation a “cost of doing business” and works to drag out a resolution in order to require the town to spend sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforce the shoreland zoning ordinances.
This enforcement problem becomes particularly evident when towns attempt to uphold local- and state-mandated environmental standards. The current legal structure prevents towns from withholding permits for further development, even when property owners ignore these crucial regulations. This means an offending property owner can keep building and changing their property while ignoring the laws that protect our state's precious natural resources.
My bill, LD 2101, would allow a local municipality to restrict, suspend, or revoke any locally issued permit to the property and property owner where the violation has occurred. Notably, a town would not be required to impose these restrictions; it would be at the town's discretion. This would prevent the property owner from working to complete any renovations or continue work on the property until the violation has been resolved.
Typically, when the violation is resolved in the courts, the court assigns the cost of enforcing the violation and any applicable fines to the property owner. Then, in some cases, another fight ensues to collect those costs, which places another undue burden on taxpayers in the town. The second part of LD 2101 allows the city or town to place a lien on the property’s title to prevent the transfer of the property until the court-determined costs have been paid.
The public hearing on this bill has already happened in the State and Local Government Committee. However, you can still submit official testimony online until the work session, which has yet to be scheduled. More information on how to submit testimony can be found at mainelegislature.org/testimony. Additionally, you can email SLG@legislature.maine.gov expressing your support. Your email will be sent to all members of the committee.
As your Senator and Chair of the State and Local Government Committee, I am committed to equipping our towns with tools for effective self-governance. This initiative represents a crucial addition to our collective toolbox, further empowering our communities.
If you have questions about LD 2101 or need assistance submitting testimony, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is Timothy.Nangle@legislature.maine.gov, and the Senate office phone number is 207-287-1515. You can also find me on Facebook at facebook.com/SenatorTimNangle. To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at mainesenate.org. <