Maine Alliance for Road Associations
CALLING ALL VICTIMS OF ABANDONED ROADS TO SPEAK UP!
L.D. 596, An Act to Improve the Law Regarding Abandoned Roads
This won't apply to most of you, but if you are on a road that was once a town road and has been abandoned, please take notice!
Maine ROADWays has been trying for years to get the Abandonment Statute, 23 MRSA 3028, either repealed or seriously overhauled. Last session, the Maine Woodland Owners submitted their proposal for major overhaul. The bill made it through the State and Local Government Committee with a unanimous vote of “ought to pass,” and was headed to the full legislature. But when the governor shut down the legislature, everything was put on hold and the bill was marked “Dead.” Now the bill has been resubmitted, and comes up for public hearing this Monday, March 22, at 10:00 a.m.
While it’s not perfect, this bill is a VAST improvement over what we have now. We need to do everything we can to get it through committee with a unanimous “ought to pass” vote once again. (See instructions below for testifying.) There are many new members on this year’s State and Local committee who were not there last year and don’t know all the work that went into it. If they should split the vote, then it will have to get discussed all over again before the full legislature, and there’s no telling what they would do to it. If we can get a unanimous vote, it will most likely go “under the gavel,” that is, the full legislature will trust the decision of the Committee and approve it without further discussion.
What this bill does:
It requires NOTICE of an intent to abandon the road to owners of ALL AFFECTED PROPERTY (as defined in the statute.) Under the current law, the Selectmen can just decide to abandon a road without notifying ANY of the property owners. This bill would require notice not only to abutters, but to owners of ANY PROPERTY THAT DEPENDS ON THE ROAD FOR ACCESS, even if has no actual frontage on that road or is over the town line.
It requires a PUBLIC HEARING if requested by at least 25% of the affected property owners. Currently, there is NO requirement for any public hearing, so this (combined with the Notice requirement) is quite an improvement. Before, it could be done without anyone knowing.
It provides for a simple and accessible APPEAL. Currently, the only appeal is before Superior Court, which can be so daunting and costly that it’s out of the question for many landowners. This bill allows appeal to the town’s Board of Appeals if they are authorized to hear such matters, and otherwise, to the County Commissioners. If necessary, that decision can still be appealed to Superior Court.
It LIMITS the PUBLIC EASEMENT that is retained to rights of access by foot or by “motor vehicle AS DEFINED IN TITLE 29-A SECTION 101, SUBSECTION 42.” This should help rein in the use of these roads by everything from ATV’s to Log Skidders.
It provides a method of EXTINGUISHING the PUBLIC EASEMENT and establishing mutual private easements for the landowners.
If the road provides the only access to PROPERTY OUTSIDE THE MUNICIPALITY, the municipal officers or county commissioners of that area (as well as those landowners) must also be notified.
It requires RECORDING the abandonment with both the Registry of Deeds and the DOT. A filing requirement was added to the abandonment statute in 2015, but before that, no recording was required. This amendment adds the requirement that the notice in the Registry of Deeds be recorded not only under the names of abutting property owners but under the names of ALL “affected property owners” as defined in the statute.
I could name situations where each of the above provisions would have made a critical difference if they had been in effect sooner. Let’s get this one passed! We can always come back and tweak it more another time, but the progress this one will make is too good to pass up. I’ve learned over the years that demanding perfection the first time is likely to result in a bill being rejected. While it’s frustrating, it’s better to chip away at a problem a few bites at a time. If we can get that unanimous favor of the Committee once again, this bill will accomplish several bites.
So I would encourage anyone with an interest in abandoned roads to testify on L.D. 596, as outlined below. Even if all you do is submit a quick note saying “Please vote L.D. 596 Ought to Pass,” that will help. If you can add an example you’re familiar with where one or more of the new provisions would make a difference, that’s even better.
• TO SUBMIT TESTIMONY, go here: https://www.mainelegislature.org/testimony/
• Select “Public hearing.”
• Read the directions, then select the State and Local Government Committee.
• Choose the Date - March 22 at 10:00 a.m.
• Choose L.D. 596, An Act to Improve the Law Regarding Abandoned Roads.
• Read the submission guidelines.
• You can then choose whether to present your testimony live, or in writing, or both. DO NOT put anything in the text box except what you want to appear on their public website as testimony, as it gets published automatically. You can either type and paste your comments into the text box, or attach your testimony as a PDF file. Try to keep it to just one page. If you are going to testify live, plan to keep it to three minutes or less. (That’s about one typewritten page - try reading it out loud in advance to make sure.)
• Then fill in the rest of the required information in the blanks at the bottom of the page - Name, town, email address, phone number (so they recognize you if you have to dial in.)
• I thought there was a spot to choose “In favor of,” “In opposition to,” or “Neither for nor against,” but I don’t see it now - maybe it pops up later, as I’m trying to do this without actually filling it in yet.
• Click “I am not a robot,” and then SUBMIT
• If you are going to testify live, they will send you a Zoom link. Otherwise, you can watch on their YouTube channel, here: https://www.youtube.com/.../UCITqHfjDWmnYczBlNV.../videos...
Here is a link to the full text of the bill:
And for comparison, here is a link to the statute as it currently stands, and will continue to stand if this bill does not pass:
Please advise if I am reading this correctly, LD596 was signed on June 10, 2021 and takes effect on October 1st?
It has been signed into law, which should mean it goes into effect 90 days after the close of the Legislative session. As to the exact date, I'm not sure. The session was originally scheduled to end mid June, but last I knew they were still trying to wrap things up. The Legislative Calendar that went out July 1 didn't say anything about adjourning, as far as I could see. But I do see that the final version specifies Oct 1 as the date it goes into effect, so that is probably correct.
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations