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Maine Alliance for Road Associations

Statutory Association formation as a formality

  • 21 Sep 2023 11:14 AM
    Message # 13257482
    Deleted user

    I am a private road land owner and resident with 13 owners on my road (8 homes, plus 5 undeveloped lots).  A subset of the owners are pushing for a Statutory Road association after they have already had meetings and votes without all of the owners.  They have communicated this through email, where they have also indicated that myself and another owner do not need to participate, we were given the option of opting out.   I am wondering if we can be forced to join, as this is all being done after the fact just to formalize all of the decisions they have made prior to involving all owners?

    Here is a letter I intend to send to them prior to their meeting, which outlines the situation; I am wondering if anyone has any guidance as to how to proceed (I have removed names and just reference Owner_n):

    "Dear Owners,

    At some point prior to April 27, 2023, owners who are part of the three (3) owners that facilitated the “Notice of Meeting Warrant” held meetings that all owners were not invited or privy to; this subset of owners decided that we would all to be made responsible to pay for the road maintenance. Again, without our input or consent, and without any input as to how assessments would be structured:

    Owner_1 (4/27): If we had an agreement in place, everyone would be responsible for the cost, as it should be, because we all live on the same road…no matter where your house is located.

    In response we asked for some clarification and there was a meeting set by Owner_1, to be held on Sunday 6/25 to discuss. However, as this meeting approached Owner_1 emailed us stating that there was no need for the meeting as it had already been determined that the subset of owners had decided that they were moving forward with a Road Maintenance Agreement:

    Owner_1 (6/9): "As an update to my prior emails, we are moving forward with the Road Maintenance Agreement and are getting quotes for the road. If you choose not to be part of this Agreement, we will continue to maintain the road after Owner_3’s house at our cost and whoever has been maintaining the road from the main road to Owner_3’s house will continue to do so at their own cost. Please let me know your preference."

    Owner_1 also indicated that if we did not want to be a part of it all we had to do was to convey this and they would not involve us. We responded that we were surprised that these decisions were made without us, and that we would opt out of being a part of the road association that was being formed without us. Owner_2 further pushed that we did not have to be part of this agreement (twice). He also indicated that there was a vote and that our votes were not necessary as they already had determined that they were moving forward (without our input or votes):

    Owner_2 (6/9): "I think what Owner_1 was saying was that we have the votes required to move forward with a(sic) RMA and the question is really fdo(sic) you want to be par tof(sic) it or not."

    "Think about it and get back to us, but the need for a RMA is not really something we are debating at this point. It is just a question of who it will include and how much of the road will be included in the agreement."

    Owner_1 reiterated that we were not required to be a part of the road association that they were forming:

    Owner_1 (6/9): "we’re just trying to get everyone on the same page, but if that’s not going to work we just wanted to give you the option of keeping things the way they are."

    And for a fifth time we were told that we were not required to be involved if we wanted to opt out:

    Owner_1 (6/9): "Plain and simple, if you don’t want to be part of the Agreement, the meeting is not going to go forward. We’ll keep things as they were."

    Owner_3 and myself indicated that given the option (5 times) to not be involved in the formation of this association/RMA that we would opt out of it, and to not include us.

    On 9/18, we received a “Notice of Meeting Warrant” indicating that the same owners who had already voted to create a Road Maintenance Agreement, were trying to formalize this with a Statutory Road Association, and that we were expected to be involved. Given a vote was held without us for this formation and given the option that we did not have to be involved (after that vote was held), we formally opt out of being part of this road association and would like any by-laws to reflect that we are not involved and do not need to be. The expectation is that we will not be assessed or burdened with the financial cost of maintaining the road, and we will maintain our “part” of the road as we have in the past.

    Any advice is appreciated.

  • 22 Sep 2023 10:43 AM
    Reply # 13257924 on 13257482
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I am not an attorney and what follows is based on my reading and experience as member of a statutory road association about the same size as yours.

    I would not send your letter as written. If I may, I would like to propose another interpretation of the past and current events you have related above; events leading to the possible formation of a statutory road association of all property owners along your road.

    Any meetings of individual owners held prior to the "Notice of Warrant Meeting" you received on 9/18 would be considered informal in nature. Decisions made would not be binding on any owners and maintenance cost-sharing would be voluntary.  In the proposed statutory road association, noticed to you on 9/18, sharing of costs by owners would be enforced by provisions within the law. 

    Forming a statutory road association according to 23 MRS §§ 3101 - 3104 requires a formal meeting. All owners of property along the road to be maintained must be notified of the proposed meeting by notary "Warrant" at least 30 days in advance to include the date, time, place, purpose, and items to be voted. I expect the "Warrant Meeting" will be held in late October. This meeting will not be "their" meeting but will legally involve you and all other owners. At this initial meeting, owners present and voting or absent and voting by proxy or absentee ballot will decide by majority vote whether to accept or reject the items in the Warrant (agenda) deciding the formation of a statutory road association.

    The decisions voted at this meeting are binding for all owners notified by the "Notice of Warrant Meeting". If all owners are so notified, a majority of owners need not be present at the meeting, vote, or approve of the outcome. It certainly makes sense to participate fully and vote your preference at the meeting called by Warrant.

    If the participating majority of owners votes in favor of forming a statutory road association, then road maintenance expenses will be shared by all owners and such sharing enforced according to 23 MRS §3104, Penalties and process.  

    Last modified: 24 Sep 2023 9:13 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 25 Sep 2023 2:42 PM
    Reply # 13258843 on 13257482
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I also am not an attorney, but I have a slightly different slant on this situation.  It sounds like the people who are proposing forming a road association have not really decided what they want, and/or have not read the law carefully.  (It sounds like you may have read it more carefully than they have.)  And it certainly appears that they have not followed all the requirements for forming a Statutory Road Association under 23 MRS 3101-3104.  Consequently they would have no power to demand that anyone pay.  On the other hand, I see no reason why they could not form an "informal" or "voluntary" association, so long as they understand that is what they have.  If those who want a road association are willing to be the only ones who pay, I don't think there is any reason why they cannot proceed that way.  In fact, there are some situations where it is clear that some landowners object to paying anything, and the others find it makes more sense financially and emotionally to just keep the peace rather than fighting over it and possibly having to go to court to try to get payment.  Often that works fine when there is a small number of properties involved.  But at some point, especially if lands are subdivided so more people are using the road, it may become advantageous to do something more formal.  In the mean time, if you can co-exist peaceably by continuing without a formal road association but with people voluntarily pitching in on road maintenance, that's better than getting in a fight over it.  Just my opinion.

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