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Maine Real Estate News & Notes
Shoreland Zoing - September 2008

Icon_RENewsWaterfront real estate is always one of the most requested property searches we receive.  Whether its ocean, lake or river, the allure of living by the water (or at least having a view) is fundamental.

Once you own that slice of heaven, however, you are not always lord and master of your domain.  Federal and State legislators have made it clear through a series regulations who makes the rules when it comes to the shoreline.  So, before you start cutting tress, dredging, or installing docks, make sure you know what you can and cannot do. 

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has produced a 36 page booklet entitled "Maine Shoreland Zoning - A Handbook For Shoreland Owners". This booklet explains, in clear language and with the use of drawings and diagrams, the state's Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act. While it is meant for informational purposes only and not to be used as a substitute for the law itself, this publication goes a long way in explaining and showing different aspects of the Act.

For example there you will find explanations of what a non-conforming structure is, expansion rules for non-conforming structures, what a grandfathered lot is, building setbacks and lot coverage restrictions, guidelines for erosion control, septic disposal rules, clearing vegetation and timber harvesting guidelines, and an explanation of the roles of local boards and state agencies.

For anyone who currently owns property in a shoreland zone or is thinking about purchasing property, this publication is a essential. Is is available for download from the state's website at the following link: Maine Zoneland Zoing Regulations

Common Shoreland Issues: 

Maine Shoreland ZoningSome of the most common issues have to do with trees – especially what you are allowed to cut.  If you are planning on building at a distance more than 100 feet back from a "great pond or river", remember harvesting operations can not create single clear cut openings greater than 10,000 square feet in the forest canopy. Where such openings exceed 5,000 square feet they shall be at least 100 feet apart. 

Also, there are many fine points to the shoreland regulations, but one important one to note is that in non-tidal areas the minimum lot size for residential dwelling units is 40,000 square feet with a minimum shore frontage of 200 feet. In tidal areas the lot size and frontage requirements are 30,000 square feet and 150 feet respectively.  The minimum set back for a new subsurface sewage disposal system must be no less than 100 feet from normal high water line.

In the end, it is wise to make sure you understand the rules and regulations before starting any project around the water in Maine.  The last thing you need to do is complete some major work and then find our you are in violation.



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