Maine Alliance for Road Associations
Last year, our association spent a significant amount of money on various improvements, including culvert replacements, ditching, riprap, plunge pools and gravel. We had an engineer do a study and followed his recommendations. The engineer recommended a new culvert in one location. During the heavy rains last year, the property owner adjacent to the culvert experienced flooding in their basement. The wife was upset, but the husband said it has happened before. Association representatives and our engineer visited the property and talked to the owners. The engineer said that he didn't believe the culvert caused the flooding; however, he recommended that we cap the culvert with holes only on the top half of the cap to limit the amount of water going through the culvert to appease the property owners. During the winter, the same property owner had significant icing in their driveway. Our association representatives and the engineer again visited the property and all were in agreement that there was no way the culvert caused the icing. The property owners did not agree and hired someone to completely cover the culvert with gravel. Our engineer will not put anything in writing. Do we have any recourse against the property owner?
Wow, that's a sticky one. It may be interesting to see what the result is due to the landowner covering the culvert with gravel. The water will have to go someplace. Will it then wash out the road, or will even more of it end up in the landowner's basement?
One thing that comes to mind is the provision in 23 MRS 3101 subsection 5-A. Easements. "A road association under this subchapter may negotiate an easement for the installation of a ditch, drain, culvert or other storm water management infrastructure to benefit the private road, private way or bridge. The easement must specify when a ditch, drain, culvert or other storm water management infrastructure must be maintained and include reasonable performance standards to guide the timing and extent of its upkeep and repair. The easement must also be recorded at the registry of deeds in the county in which the property subject to the easement is located. A ditch, drain, culvert or other storm water management infrastructure subject to an easement under this subsection must be under the control of and maintained by the road association."
I am assuming from your letter that you have not yet obtained such an easement, and it doesn't sound like the landowner would agree to one. Perhaps if you had gotten one before doing the work, you would have had more recourse. At this point, your best bet might be to hire a professional mediator to help you and the landowner reconcile your differences. Try Family and Community Mediation (FCM) or the Maine Association of Mediators (MAM) and see what they have to offer.
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations