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  • 11 Oct 2018 11:20 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    There are several very good examples and legislation as well as reviews and discussion articles about “tiny houses.” I’ve listed some below. Most of the discussion revolves around questions though. Because every town is different and choses different policies based on their own needs, it is difficult to tell each town the correct answer. Basically, you need to figure out what you want as a community. It starts with the discussion. You might begin with the following questions:

    1. Keep in mind your police powers (health, general welfare, and safety).
    2. General policy – What is our goal with regard to housing? Do we need more of it?
    3. Inclusionary – Who is our housing for? Do we want to include everyone? Do we want housing choices for everyone?
    4. Property values – Courts have stated that property values is a legitimate use of the police powers. Do we want to protect property values? Where?
    5. Should they meet the same requirements as all other dwelling units where they are allowed? Or does that now make them so expensive that it is unaffordable?
    6. Density – How dense do we want an area? Could smaller homes be a choice in a denser neighborhood? What size lot do they need? Do they need separate lots? Might they be in a park like mobile homes or camp sites?
    7. Infrastructure – What type of infrastructure might be necessary? Parking, water/wells, public sewer/septic/other, electricity, solar, etc. If we have bus service, do we need parking? Do we have enough road width to allow on street parking?
    8. Zoning/land use –
    • Subdivision – Do we want these as part of a subdivision?
    • Form based type - What do we want our housing to look like? What form would they take? What would it look like?
    • Do we care about the size of the house? What if it is smaller than other types of housing? Do we want to have a minimum size house? What if we had a maximum size house?
    • Might we think about them like Accessory Dwelling Units? Could they be like the converted garages that are found in many places already?
    9. Fees – If this is supposed to be housing that is more affordable, then do we want to charge the same fee for services or permits?

    Examples: Dignity Village - Portland, OR; Quixote Village - Olympia, WA; Opportunity Village - Eugene, OR; Rockledge, FL - pocket neighborhoods; Thoreau’s small house on Walden Pond, MA

    Legislation: NH recently adopted legislation requiring municipalities to allow accessory dwelling units.

    Articles/Resources:

    Tiny Houses and the Not-So-Tiny Questions They Raise,” APA, Zoning Practice, November 2015, Issue Number 11.

    Accessory Dwelling Units: A Flexible Free-Market Housing Solution” R Street, Free markets. Real solutions. R Street Policy Study No. 89, March 2017.

    Tiny Houses: Niche or Noteworthy?” APA, February 2016.

    American Tiny House Association: www.americantinyhouseassociation.org.

    Bemidji (Minnesota), City of, 2015 Greater Bemidji Area Zoning and Subdivision Ordinance, article XI: Subdivisions and Planned Unit Developments, Section 1101: Subdivision of land, Part F Tiny House Subdivision. Available at tinyurl.com/pzlj9uf.

    Mccann, Conor, 2015. “The Workhouse Postmortem.” May 27. Available at http://www.theworkhouse.co/postmortem.

    Spur (Texas), City of 2014. “A Resolution Establishing the Designation of the City of Spur, as America’s First “Tiny” House Friendly Town,” July 17. Available at spurfreedom.org/hooray-for-our-city-council.

    Tumbleweed Tiny House Company; tumbleweedhouses.com

    --Carol Eyerman, AICP, Town of Topsham

  • 11 Oct 2018 11:02 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    With every edition of Front Page, MAP highlights the "comings and goings" of planners through Bytes 'N Pieces.

    • Justin Barker, AICP, LEED GA, CNU-A, has joined the South Portland planning team as a Community Planner. Justin was a planner in Columbus, OH before serving as a Senior Planner for the last five years in Aspen, CO. Justin has Masters Degrees in both Architecture and City & Regional Planning. Although the skiing will not quite the same, we are hoping Justin will find as much joy or even more in the many attractions of coastal Maine.
    • Matt Panfil has been hired as Brunswick’s Director of Planning and Development. Matt comes from Vail, Colorado where he was a Town Planner. Prior to his time in Colorado, Matt served in multiple planning roles in two municipalities in suburban Chicago. Read more.
    • Misty Parker was promoted to the position of Economic Development Manager with the City of Lewiston. 
    • Ben Smith, former Planning Director for the Town of Windham, left his position to pursue consulting full time as principal of North Star Planning.
  • 11 Oct 2018 10:46 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    So you’ve come to the end of a contentious application process. A lot has been said. Neighbors complained, engineers and planners have pointed out problems, solutions have been offered, and in the end, there is a Finding of Fact and Conditions of Approval that are ready for a final review and a vote. Tensions are high, and everybody is watching.  Who are you?

    1. You have been involved in the conversation all along, attending every meeting, asking the tough questions, putting it back to the applicant to prove and promise and to give more.

    2. You are quiet, listening to the complaints from neighbors about noise, dust, traffic, and all, but not offering ways to solve the problems. You suggest you may disagree with some things but do not offer solutions that would satisfy your concerns. More complaints come in about potential nuisances, but you do not try to double down on restrictions and address the concerns. You hate the project, but you keep quiet.

    3. You are the one who misses meetings, worse, avoids the meeting on the night of the vote… or worse yet, the one who conveniently resigns the same day. Go you.

    On Professional Opinions

    We are not professional members of the board. We are not necessarily professional planners, engineers, or lawyers. But we have something to learn from them. When a soil scientist calls an area a wetland, it can be backed up, it is not just an attitude. It is a Professional Opinion.

    I’m not quoting Webster, but there are two kinds of opinions.

    1. Loudmouth Uncle’s Opinion, heard from the backyard party: “I disagree.”  “That new development is just plain stupid.”  And the like. He says it, along with “Hey, it’s my opinion, there is no accounting for opinions.” “I believe I’ll have an other beer.”

    2. A Professional Opinion. “I disagree…”  is followed by some detail why the professional thinks so, and why you and others should agree. “This is a wetland because it is saturated soil with standing water so many days a year, has such and such plants, as defined in this manual, etc.”

    A professional opinion is supported with facts, logic, and accepted methods of analysis. It’s not hard, it just takes backup. This is the Big Point of this article.

    How do we develop opinions on the Planning Board?

    We need to be less like the opinionated uncle and more like the professional.  Of course we cannot expect this all the time; one doesn’t need  a professional career to be on the board. We are often a jury of peers, regular folks who live just down the road. New members can arrive and find it is the first time they have ever been on such a board. We beg for and welcome new members; as much as we always struggle for a full board to maintain a quorum, we need the diversity of voices.

    New members can find it tough. People can be shy and apologetic about asking questions, intimidated by a lawyer or a vocal board member, generally unsure how to contribute and express ideas. I offer the following advice not only as it is a good general way to carry yourself in all circumstances and as specific advice on the most effective approach, but also a gentle reprimand to those who do otherwise.

    During the planning process, information flows by and we must all be up to speed on the issues. If something comes up and raises a question, you must ask the question.

    1. Read everything.  Listen intently.

    2. Don’t expect to remember it all, or hear it all.

    3. Don’t be afraid to ask a “stupid question”.  Say you don’t understand, ask to please repeat what was just said. If you don’t get it, someone else doesn’t as well.

    4. You have an obligation to ask questions when you don’t understand.

    5. Don’t be upset when someone questions your question. That’s how it works. Be good at being wrong. We can only know what is right if we discard the things that are wrong.

    6. Be good at being right. Insist and explain when you know.

    7. When you disagree with a solution being offered to a problem, you have an obligation to call it out.

    8. If you don’t call it out when it comes by, you slowly lose your moral high ground to call it out later.

    9. When the vote comes by, and you still have not called out your objections, offered little or nothing in contribution to solutions, found no specific problems with any of the items we use to confirm the project is acceptable, you have an obligation to vote “YES”.

    10. If you have been vocal, articulate, and clear about the issues as they relate to the ordinances, and they are unresolved at the time of the vote, you are obliged to vote “NO”.

    Here is the thing. Voting “NO” without clear reasoning might suggest you have a hidden agenda, or you are not trusted to be unbiased. You may have an unstated conflict of interest, or you do not understand your role in the process. Maybe someone paid you off. Nobody can tell unless you have a good explanation. This is the Big Point of this article.

    If the majority votes no, and the application is denied without adequate support, the decision would be in jeopardy. The town would be at risk of an expensive court challenge. You voted NO, but gave no reason. All along, the Board asked the applicant for concessions and to define their project, they complied, but in the end, you and the Board denied the application without reason. This not only makes the Board look like a Kangaroo Court, it also puts the town in a vulnerable position to lose an expensive and public lawsuit.

    At its worst, a board can develop a culture of voting no without support. This is toxic. Chaotic, emotional meetings become the norm. With weak leadership and unproductive, sometimes embarrassing exchanges happen. Seeing this, decent, talented folks who could stop this are disinclined to fill vacancies. It is a death spiral.

    When every member takes the personal responsibility to follow the same basic procedures to arrive at a defensible conclusion, meetings are short, legal fees disappear, and good neighbors stay that way.

    So we are back to the Big Point. When you are at the barbecue, you can say what you want how you want to. But when the camera is rolling at a public meeting, with legal consequences to your decisions, you are obliged to tell an applicant what needs to be done to satisfy you. And you must back up your opinions.

    --Paul Mattor, Planning Board Chair, Hollis, ME

    Hollis is a small rural town, a bedroom community of 4,200, a half hour commute to Portland. We have a smattering of small businesses, also one of the largest bottling plants on the planet. We have lovely forests full of deer, ticks, pine trees, and coyotes. We have multigenerational family culture, traffic, new development pressure, and folks from away.  We argue, hug, complain, gossip, infight, and celebrate like everybody does. Many people just live here and drive to and from work. Many more care about our future, our neighbors, and our identity. I’ve lived here my whole life (well not yet!) and love my home town. -p


  • 10 Oct 2018 7:29 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    There may be no topic so important yet potentially misunderstood these days as “affordable housing.” As housing prices ratchet up yet again, people concerned about the future of their town can be heard debating: What is affordable housing? Do we really want it here? What happens if we just let the other towns solve this problem? How about affordable housing just for seniors? And, “Is affordable housing even possible in this time of high land prices and building materials?”

    In response to this, GrowSmart Maine hosted a recent Kennebunk forum on affordable housing in an effort to clarify the different kinds, and the many benefits. Many coastal-area towns are seeing housing prices rise to the point that seasonal out-of-staters seem to be the primary buyers of what used to be considered middle-class housing.

    Matthew Peters headed up the forum, talking about the impact high-cost housing is having on Maine communities, including the long-term effects of growing seasonal populations. While some towns fear the added costs that families bring to a town budget, Matt pointed out the many proven benefits to a well-rounded community, including economic development and an active volunteer population.

    Matt specifically talked about adding affordable housing to a town’s housing mix and how higher density housing can be seen as an asset. Matt’s presentation, appropriate for planning boards, comprehensive plan committees and other interested residents, can be found here

    Matt is the President of Elysian Enterprises, a real estate development and consulting firm based in Portland, and Executive Director of Freeport Housing Trust, a non-profit providing affordable homes in Freeport, Maine. 

    And for those of you whose communities are looking at restricting Airbnb, here’s an alternative view: a link to a recent New York Times opinion piece wondering if Airbnb shouldn’t be today’s version of the boarding houses that provided an affordable place to live for so many at the turn-of-the-century. 

    What’s next? 

    On Thursday, November 15, 2018 from 4-7pm at the Topsham Public Library, GrowSmart Maine will host a forum on, “Rethinking Commercial Strip Development to Strengthen Your Community.” 

    Towns and small cities in Maine face numerous challenges in redeveloping their commercial corridors in an attractive, thoughtful, inclusive, and economically beneficial way. The forum includes lessons from various communities, sharing different perspectives (board, developer, planner), and will focus on how to maximize the potential for success. Learn how towns can improve the appearance and functionality of their commercial strips to bring in new residents, employees and “feet on the street.” 

    --Carol Morris, Board Member, GrowSmart Maine and President, Morris Communications

  • 10 Oct 2018 6:58 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    The adjacency principle is a policy. It serves as an initial screen to guide where the Land Use Planning Commission will consider requests for residential subdivision and commercial development zones in the unorganized and deorganized areas of the state. (About 10 million acres) Over the last several years, the Commission has been considering changes to the current policy. This project has generated a lot of press and even some petitions. Unfortunately, some of these materials were misleading. This is not a new phenomenon to you veteran planners!

    Over the summer, Commission staff have been meeting with communities and stakeholders to better explain the current and proposed policies and to get additional information from community members to inform changes to the proposed policy. The Commission does the planning, zoning, permitting and code enforcement for places that don’t have local government or don’t administer their own land use planning. Just like neighboring towns have an effect on each other, what happens in the Unorganized Territories can affect nearby municipalities. The regulatory framework in the UT can be pretty different than in a municipality, (the Commission operates under Title 12, not Title 30-A) so it can take a little time to understand the framework, but informed feedback from stakeholders is essential in improving the proposal. A new version of the proposal, revised in response to comments, will be available over the next two months, and then the public comment period will continue into February.

    The current proposal for refining the adjacency principle would replace the one mile rule of thumb for all of the Commission’s service area. The proposed approach would allow most residential and commercial uses in areas that are generally no more than seven miles from a rural hub and one mile from a public road. Some subdivisions could be located up to five miles from a public road if they are in a township that touches a rural hub, and a legal right of access and emergency services are available. The proposal also introduces the idea of rezoning for “low density” subdivisions, which have lots in the 12-25 acre range, in certain locations. Some uses such as large commercial facilities and home-based businesses would be regulated differently. Uses that cannot locate in developed areas, such as resource-dependent recreation and resource processing would be regulated based on the anticipated impacts from the activity, rather than a traditional zoning system. 

    The Commission encourages planners or other officials in communities that are near unorganized territories to get in touch with LUPC staff to discuss how the proposal works, and how it may affect municipalities. The website is also a good source for information. In the meantime, below is some material that the Commission provided in September in response to questions from community members in the Millinocket area. It is very high-level and summarized, but it is a good way to start to dig in to the topic.

    *************************************************************************************** 

    Answers to Millinocket Stakeholder Questions: 

    Why make changes? 

    • Planning ahead will lead to better results for the community. Being deliberate about future locations for subdivisions, and the services they require, is preferable to tying future subdivisions to the erratic distribution of existing homes throughout the UT and then allowing leapfrogging expansion indefinitely. 
    • A recreational trail center is not the same thing as a Circle K, and our current zoning rules do not always recognize that. Compatible commercial activity can help the regional economy without turning the Maine Woods into a strip mall or ruining important remote recreation areas. 
    • Changing this policy improves the high-level screening for where someone may apply to go through the rezoning process, which is exactly the scale at which overall planning is useful. Adjacency is not a blanket approval for development. 

    Why now? 

    • The problem will not get better with time, it will slowly get worse. This problem has been on the list of important policy fixes for decades. We should take this opportunity to deal with it rather than defer it again. 
    • The economy is changing, and planning ahead will help keep a woods economy viable without ruining the resource we all value. It’s time to replace outdated policies so the current economic transition has the best chance of succeeding. 
    • The current system is reactive and entirely based on the historic development pattern. The proposal would replace that with a system that proactively shapes the pattern in a way that’s more cost effective for service providers, is more predictable for people who want to start rural businesses, and has enough flexibility to accommodate the current period of economic transition. 

    Is the LUPC willing to work with communities on self-guided development? 

    • Yes. It may take jointly seeking grant funding, but the Commission is willing to work with regional coalitions to do more specific planning. In the meantime, we need a system that works better for all areas, which can then be adjusted or replaced for regions that proactively plan. 

    Can the 10 miles “from rural hubs” leapfrog as we see with the current one-mile adjacency system? 

    • No. The primary and secondary locations don’t continue to expand outward over time like the current adjacency system does. They stay where they are unless a government entity adopts a new public road close to a rural hub. 
    What are the benefits to rural communities worried about losing tax base and sprawl? 
    • Development can locate outside town boundaries in the UT today. For example, there are many areas outside Millinocket that are eligible for adjacency because there is nearby existing development. It would be better to be deliberate about where to allow rezoning for development and what type of development to allow rather than encourage leapfrogging out from wherever development located in the past. This would allow towns to better influence growth patterns and implement strategies to benefit from development in surrounding areas. 
    • Some communities have found that having a “critical mass” of people in the immediate area can help provide support for services such as hospitals and schools, provided the service agreements between the community and the UT are sufficient to cover costs. 

    Next Steps 

    These answers do not argue for a particular configuration of primary and secondary locations. The shape of the primary and secondary locations in the proposed rule is likely to change based on comments we receive. We are looking for feedback from towns about what would be a better pattern of development in the outlying areas than could happen under the current system. The Commission’s planning charge from the legislature considers regional economic vitality, including needs in the UT and the effects of our planning on towns. We are eager to hear from local stakeholders about how best to accomplish that mission. 

    Examples of Current Commercial Use Issues: 

    The bullets below are some examples of non-residential activities that are handled poorly or not at all in the Commission’s current rules. The proposal would allow these uses in some places, while avoiding negative consequences by controlling the location of these activities and potential impacts. 

    • Agriculture or recreation-based commercial uses that are more than a mile from existing commercial development, such as: 
      • Trail centers 
      • Commercial greenhouses or other ag-related retail Agritourism operations 
      • On-site gear rental (e.g., kayak rentals from a trailer at the boat launch) 
      • Sale of pre-prepared food and fuel on or near motorized trails 
      • Paintball courses or other amusements 
    • Town office building in a town or plantation with only residential uses 
    • Food truck in an island community or at a busy, developed boat launch 
    • Mobile fiber processing equipment (e.g. pellet mill on a truck) 
    • Small, permanent fiber processing facilities 
    • Regional public facilities that can be difficult to site, such as airports or landfills 
    • Bottled water wellheads 
    • Commercial firing ranges (it can be desirable to have noisy uses separated from existing uses rather than require they be nearby) 
    • Growth of successful home-based businesses beyond current limits, in places where impacts can be buffered

    --Samantha Horn, Planning Manager, Land Use Planning Commission

  • 10 Oct 2018 6:44 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The Maine Association of Planners is proud to represent planners and others involved in planning across this great state. One of the best contributions we can make to support planning is to connect and support our professional planning community. 

    Maine is a big state and the planning community is a busy bunch. The Planner Profiles series gives us a chance to meet each other and learn about our skills, interests, and experiences online.

    Meet Judy East, Executive Director, Washington County Council of Governments:


    HOW MANY YEARS IN PLANNING PROFESSION? 

    30 years

    CURRENT JOB

    Executive Director, Washington County Council of Governments

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND

    I grew up in Toronto and I still love big cities but have lived my entire adult life in rural New York and New England. My husband and I live on a 6 acre farm in Calais with a farm stand, a cider orchard, an absurd extent of perennial gardens, and a local food distribution business.

    WHAT LED YOU INTO PLANNING? 

    I started with a love of lakes and a great high school bio teacher. That led to a degree in freshwater ecology to which I added a minor degree in economics. The dismal science did not reliably "internalize the externalities” of modern human activity so I sought out a graduate degree that added group dynamics, community organization, and public policy into the mix - that turned out to be planning.

    WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT PLANNING IN MAINE? 

    The subdivision law. Never seen anything like it. The variety and extent of its exemptions to what defines land subdivision is astounding. Also the shoreland zoning law. It comes with a pile of baggage but may be the most important land use law we have. Maine would not be the extraordinary place that it is without it.

    WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK? 

    Knowing that I made a contribution here and there. As I travel it makes me smile when I see a sidewalk I helped a town finance, Brownfields sites that my program moved from abandonment to economic vibrancy, black bear habitat I helped to protect in VT, disease resistant elm trees that have grown 20 feet since I wrote the grant to pay for them, and infrastructure that withstands storms and keeps dirty water from reaching the river. Stuff like that. And the people. The relationships with colleagues provide me with immense intellectual reward and friendship. I am also continually amazed and impressed with the dedication of volunteer municipal officials.

    WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK?

    The relentlessness of keeping multiple balls in the air all the time. I have a two person, two office agency serving 34 towns and a huge area of unorganized territory. We rely on excellent computer systems and strategic use of consultants but Crystal and I do it all - the substantive planning, transportation, economic development, grant writing, GIS mapping, data crunching etc. and all the reporting, administration and bookkeeping. Keeping that many ducks in a row all the time is a challenge.

    TELL US ABOUT YOUR DREAM PROJECT – WHAT KIND OF PLANNING WORK WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE MORE INVOLVED WITH? 

    I would like to be in charge of cleaning up the plastic in the ocean. You did ask. And I mean really in charge. I would like to have the money, the talent and the influence to collect it, reprocess it and stop it from getting there in the first place. It would cost trillions, it would take a legion of chemists, engineers, marine scientists and others, and it would necessitate control over the fossil fuel and plastic manufacturing industries, among others who would have to come up with alternatives for our collective packaging issues. But, yes, that is a dream. Meantime I guess I’ll work on climate resilience projects in working waterfronts in Downeast Maine.

    WHAT IS YOUR NICHE OR MAIN EXPERTISE? 

    Helping tiny little towns with very limited resources reach their own decisions about their own future…and getting stuff paid for and done.


  • 09 Oct 2018 3:41 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    There have been many members of the Maine Association of Planners. Some have even served as officers and board members. To those folks who went above the call of duty, we thank you for a great 50 years!

    We said goodbye to a few Board members this year. So the group is slim, trim and still providing the membership with the best possible products. We are focused on the NNECAPA Conference/50th Anniversary, membership, finance, awards, and communication. The Annual Meeting associated with Build Maine in June and Board retreat in September focused primarily on these projects.

    Amanda Bunker, Professional Development chair, is spearheading the NNECAPA Conference planning effort. The small group of volunteers are doing yeoman’s work to pull together an incredible conference. We hope to see many Maine planners there.

    There is an additional committee working on the MAP 50th Anniversary party to be held on October 24th the night before the NNECAPA Conference. Lobster bake, skit, historic review and chatting with old and new friends. I hope you can join the fun!

    Tune in to Maine Calling at 1:00pm on October 24th on the ride to the conference or listen in here. You will hear fellow planners Mark Eyerman, Sarah Marchant, and Ben Smith interviewed by Jennifer Rooks.

    Jane Lafleur, Treasurer, is working with me to trim the number of accounts we have. Simplify, simplify, simplify is our cry! She is also working with our bookkeeper, Kathy Cirillo, to organize and keep track of our finances more closely and provide monthly reports.

    Each state association as well as the NNECAPA Board have signed the MOU to begin the process of each State becoming sections of NNECAPA. NNECAPA membership will be voting during the 2018 Conference at Point Lookout. MAP will be voting on the new Bylaws and voting on becoming a section in January/February 2019 at the General Membership meeting. Look for more information on the list serve and website. We have already started planning where and what it will include. Think snow and legislation.

    Happy 50th Anniversary!

    Carol Eyerman, AICP

    MAP President

    PS: If you want us to decide everything, then by all means sit on the sidelines. If not, join one of the committees or volunteer for the short projects, we would love to hear from you.


  • 15 Jun 2018 10:04 PM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)
    The Maine Association of Planners (MAP) recognized excellence in planning at its annual meeting in Lewiston on Friday, June 15, 2018. Awards were presented to Don Fellows of Lisbon for Citizen Planner of the Year; Lynne Seeley of Yarmouth for Professional Planner of the Year; Flood Resilience Checklist from the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission for Project of the Year; and South Portland West End Neighborhood Master Plan for Plan of the Year.


    MAP received multiple nominations in fou
    r award categories this year. Winners receive engraved brass plaques and printed award certificates. The Plan of the Year awardee also receives, for one year, the coveted MAP Punch Bowl to display in their place of work.

    Don Fellows of Lisbon, Maine is recognized as 2018 MAP Citizen Planner of the Year. His nominators note that, "Don Fellows has served as a member of the Town of Lisbon Planning Board since 2009 including three terms as Chair, and was an inaugural member in 2013 of the committee which became established as the Lisbon Development Committee (tasked with implementing several Lisbon plans). Don’s leadership in planning has not only guided the Town’s planning board towards becoming a more professional and forward-thinking committee, but he is one of the key community members to help establish Lisbon’s Development Committee. Don is a true champion for planning, through his valued and respected role on the planning board as well as through his support and promotion for planning at Council and other community meetings, and with residents and community groups." 

    The 2018 MAP Professional Planner of the Year is awarded to Lynne Seeley of Yarmouth, Maine. Lynne is a professional, and at the same time serves in the ranks of citizen planners for the Town of Yarmouth. Her nominators note, "Lynne has served as Chair of the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee (CPIC). CPIC was created in 2010 after the Town adopted the Comprehensive Plan. What is remarkable in this document is the extent to which the plan has been realized. Lynne played a leadership role in working to revise and refine the CBDC to create a code that on April 12, 2018 found unanimous support of the Town Council. CPIC provided volunteer support to the Planning Office of the highest professional caliber, not least of which was Lynne herself, a professional planner who has volunteered untold hours to management and leadership of the complex and challenging efforts. Lynne was the glue that held CPIC together – their contributions willingly provided because Lynne made the effort meaningful and rewarding, despite the sometimes difficult patches to be overcome. Lynne’s civic involvement does not end with the Yarmouth community. She is also active at the state level, serving on the Board of GrowSmart Maine and the Maine Association of Planners. She is currently working on research and writing on New Ruralism, with focus on the characteristics and planning for small towns and rural places. Lynne contributes to her town and state, with talent, professional expertise, high energy and a commitment to effective and sincere community engagement.”

    The 2018 MAP Program or Project of the Year is awarded to the Flood Resilience Checklist, a program led by Abbie Sherwin of the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission  to build awareness of the risks of climate change and the ways that municipalities can prepare. MAP Programs and Projects are works in progress. The Flood Resilience Checklist is an effort to address what is perhaps the greatest challenge confronting the world. The nominators note, "The Maine Flood Resilience Checklist (FRC) is a novel and practical framework and process for municipalities to enhance understanding of local flood and sea level rise impacts, assess vulnerability, and integrate resilience in existing planning and policy efforts to protect communities’ social, economic, and environmental dimensions from coastal flood hazards and changing environmental conditions. The FRC process enabled the City of Saco to move beyond the theory of resiliency toward the practice of resilience by guiding the City to translate an assessment of its community-wide vulnerability to flooding and sea level rise into practical, actionable information to better prepare for existing and future flood hazards. It also provided Saco with valuable information about ways to reduce flood insurance costs for its residents by earning points through FEMA’s Community Rating System (CRS)." More information is available at www.maine.gov/dacf/mgs/hazards/coastal/MaineFloodResilienceChecklistOverview.pdf.

    The 2018 MAP Plan of the Year is awarded to the South Portland West End Neighborhood Master Plan. This master plan demonstrates the saying that good things come in small packages. The nominators note, "The West End Neighborhood Master Plan goes beyond the traditional neighborhood plan and instead has been a driving force for real-time change, broad community empowerment, and enduring public and private partnerships. This process was more nimble and responsive than many conventional plans –grounded in real-world conditions and market realities. The final document is short, highly visual, and accessible to both the public and professionals. The recommendations are targeted and actionable – written with special concern for long-range consequences, interrelatedness of decisions, and social justice. Soliciting input from those who have historically been left out of the process was foundational to this plan. Strategies included attending community dinners, holding open office hours, conducting one-on-one interviews, and meeting with youth at the community center. To date, the plan has already had many components implemented, and even more recommendations are on the docket for the City of South Portland, local developers, and other partners. Shortly after adoption, the City approved zoning changes to allow for a denser mixed-use center, and Avesta Housing is actively pursuing an affordable housing project under these new regulations."  More information about the West End Master Plan is available at www.southportland.org/departments/planning-and-development/west-end-neighborhood-survey/.

  • 07 Mar 2018 5:37 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    Hardly a week goes by without a story in the local paper about a Maine municipality grappling with what to do about an abandoned or dilapidated building in town.  The fact patterns are remarkably similar:  A home in significant disrepair, junk in the yard, an absentee property owner,  complaints by neighbors—and, consequently, political pressure to “do something about it!”

    So what can municipal officials do?  The state’s dangerous buildings law (Title 17, Sections 2851-2859 of the Maine Revised Statutes) provides several options, but—beware—each comes with its own procedural pitfalls.  

    Securing Buildings in the Case of Serious Threats to Health and Safety

    First and foremost, if a building poses a serious threat to public health and safety, the municipality should immediately act to secure it.  Notice must be served, although not before securing the building in these situations.  The Code Enforcement Officer (CEO) should attempt to contact the owner by phone or email to inform him or her of the municipality’s intentions and document the threat in writing.  The CEO should not wait to arrange for the building to be secured, however.  Any delay in these instances could raise questions as to whether the threat is, indeed, serious.

    Once the building is secured, notice must be personally served by a sheriff or deputy sheriff on the owner and all “parties-in-interest”—including any mortgagors, mortgagees, holders of the fee interest, lessees pursuant to recorded leases or memoranda of leases, lienors and attaching creditors listed in the records of the Registry of Deeds.  In other words, a title search is needed to identify all the parties-in-interest.

    Local Process:  Declaring a Building to be “Dangerous”

    The dangerous building statute sets forth a specific process for municipal officers—that is, selectpersons or councilors—to declare a building to be a nuisance or dangerous and order corrective action, including the repair or demolition of the structure.

    Under state law, a building may be found dangerous if it is structurally unsafe; is unstable or unsanitary; constitutes a fire hazard; is unsuitable or improper for the use or occupancy to which it is put; constitutes a hazard to health or safety because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment; or is otherwise dangerous to life or property.  A “building” for this purpose is defined as “a building or structure, or any portion of a building or structure, or any wharf, pier, pilings or, any portion thereof, that is located on or extending from land within the boundaries of the municipality as measured from the low water mark.”

    Before this statutory process is initiated, however, the municipality has often already taken steps to attempt to resolve the situation.  Typically, these initial steps include a CEO inspection, delivery of one or more notices of violation, and efforts to reach a consensual settlement with the property owner.  In situations where the CEO identifies the property to be a potential dangerous building, the notice of violation should warn the owner that, if the dangerous condition is not corrected within a certain timeframe, the CEO will advise the municipal officers to initiate a dangerous building proceeding.  The notice of violation should also spell out the consequences of a dangerous building proceeding to the owner, including the possible assessment of a special tax to recover the costs of expenses incurred by the municipality related to that proceeding and collection by automatic lien foreclosure.

    When these initial steps do not resolve the situation, a municipality can follow the statutory process to declare the building to be a nuisance or dangerous and to order corrective action, including demolition of the building. 

    It bears mention that demolition of property is a drastic governmental action, which can put a municipality at risk for a lawsuit and, ultimately, damages for wrongful removal.  As such, the decision to proceed should not be taken lightly and a municipality should consult with legal counsel before commencing this process to both weigh the risks and rewards and ensure that all legal requirements are met.

    In sum, the local process involves the following steps:

    1.      Conduct a Title Search:  A title search is needed to identify the owner of record, as well as all “parties-in-interest,” which is defined in state law as including any mortgagors, mortgagees, holders of the fee interest, lessees pursuant to recorded leases or memoranda of leases, lienors and attaching creditors listed in the records of the Registry of Deeds.
    2.      Schedule a Hearing and Serve Notice:  The municipal officers vote to set a hearing to adjudicate whether or not the building is dangerous or a nuisance, and issue a notice of hearing.  The notice should be signed by the municipal officers and attested by the municipal clerk.  The original must be recorded in the Registry of Deeds, and an attested copy must be personally served on each owner and party-in-interest by the sheriff or deputy sheriff in the county in which the party is located.  The returns of service must be provided to the municipality.  To allow adequate time to serve the notice on the owner and parties-in-interest, the hearing should be scheduled out about 3 or 4 weeks.
    3.      Conduct an Inspection:  If not already done, the CEO, Fire Chief, and any other municipal official with enforcement authority should conduct an inspection of the property and prepare an inspection report, with photographs documenting all dangerous or nuisance conditions—including broken windows, doors, stairways; loose bricks or trim; debris in the yard; etc.  If the CEO cannot obtain consent from the owner to inspect the interior of the building, an administrative inspection warrant should be secured.  In addition, in some circumstances, a registered engineer may need to be hired to inspect the building and prepare a written report to document whether or not the building is structurally safe or salvageable.
    4.      Hold the Hearing:  Only after the owner and parties-in-interest have been properly served may the municipal officers hold the hearing.  The CEO, Fire Chief, engineer (if hired), and any other municipal official with information about the property should present evidence relevant to the dangerous or nuisance conditions.  Any owner or any party-in-interest attending the hearing should also be given an opportunity to testify.
    5.      Deliberate:  Immediately following the hearing, the municipal officers must consider whether the building is “dangerous or a nuisance,” based on the definition in state law.  The municipal officers then sign an order containing detailed findings of fact supporting the conclusion that the building is or is not dangerous, and outlining any corrective action that must be taken by the owner to abate the situation.  (In practical effect, a draft order is either prepared ahead of the hearing and the municipal officers amend it as necessary as part of their deliberations, or the municipal officers direct the CEO or town attorney to draft the order after the deliberations and reconvene at another time to sign the order.)
    6.      Serve and Record the Order:  The signed order must be recorded in the Registry of Deeds and an attested copy must be personally served upon the owner and the parties-in-interest in the same manner as the notice of hearing was served.
    7.      Take Corrective Action:  Typically, the order provides the owner with at least 30 days to demolish or repair the building to the municipality’s satisfaction.  If the necessary corrective action is not taken by the owner, the order will give the municipal manager the authority to abate the property1.  Note that any personal property inside a building that has been declared dangerous must be disposed of in accordance with the statutory process for disposing of abandoned property, set forth in Title 30-A, Section 3106 of the Maine Revised Statutes.
    8.      Recover Expenses:  The municipality must itemize all costs related to the dangerous building proceeding action and issue a written demand to the owner.  The costs that may be recovered by the municipality include the costs of title searches, service of process, reasonable attorney’s fees, costs to secure the building, costs to repair or demolish the building, clean-up costs, and all other costs that are reasonably related to the dangerous building proceeding.  If the owner fails to pay the demand within 30 days, the municipality may assess a special tax on the property, which is included in the next annual warrant to the tax collector and is collected in the same manner as other municipal taxes are collected.  (Note that because the special tax is not an ad valorem tax, it cannot be used to determine the mil rate and should be issued as a separate tax bill on the property.)  If the tax is not paid, it may be collected using the same automatic lien foreclosure process that is used to collect property taxes.

    Alternative Court Process

    State law allows municipalities to seek an abatement or demolition order directly from the Superior Court, rather than using the local proceeding outlined above.  After a hearing, the Court may order corrective action and award costs to the municipality. 

    In addition, the statute allows a municipality to use a summary process in situations involving immediate and serious threats to public health, safety, and welfare.  After the municipality files a complaint with the Superior Court, the Court may set a hearing within 10 days of the filing of the complaint and may order the owner and parties-in-interest to appear.  After the hearing, the Court may order corrective action and award costs. 

    Because many legal considerations come into play in pursuing these legal actions, a call to a municipal attorney is a necessary step in deciding whether a court process is appropriate for any given situation.

    Conclusion

    There is no question that the dangerous building process is onerous, requiring municipal officials to take numerous time-consuming and costly steps to ensure that all affected parties—that is, the owner and parties-in-interest—are properly notified, given meaningful opportunity to participate in the process, and ultimately challenge any decision of the municipal officers.  The reason for all of this process is clear—and clearly necessary:  At the end of the day, the dangerous building statute authorizes local government to demolish a person’s home.  This grant of power justifies a commensurate dose of due process.

    1Note that, last year, the Maine Legislature updated the dangerous building statute to allow for the delay of demolition of a dangerous building if an owner or party-in-interest has demonstrated an ability and willingness to rehabilitate the building.  See LD 1959 (“An Act to Protect the Public from Dangerous Buildings”), P.L. 2017 ch. 136.


    --Aga (Pinette) Dixon, Drummond Woodsum 

    Aga Dixon focuses her legal practice on public finance and municipal and land use matters. Before joining the law firm of Drummond Woodsum, Aga was a senior planner at the Maine Land Use Planning Commission (LURC) where she coordinated comprehensive planning projects, rulemaking initiatives, and regulatory reviews of significant and controversial development projects. Since then, Aga has assisted municipal clients with drafting, enacting, and enforcing ordinances that address local concerns and achieve planning objectives.


  • 03 Mar 2018 6:10 AM | Maine Association of Planners (Administrator)

    The votes are in! Each state association as well as the NNECAPA Board met to discuss the reorganization idea. Every state association gave direction to the NNECAPA Board that they would like to explore the option of forming Section within the NNECAPA Chapter. 

    The general outline for this process will be:

    • NNECAPA hired Rick Menard to act as consultant to draft NNECAPA Bylaws by the end of February 2018
    • Retreat of all four organizations to review draft Bylaws in March 2018
    • Final draft Bylaws for all organizations to review ready by end of April 2018
    • Final adoption of NNECAPA Bylaws during NNECAPA Conference 2018

    MAP will need to begin to review and think about adjustments to its Bylaws close to the adoption of the NNECAPA Bylaws. We should be thinking about an ad-hoc committee for this purpose by at least the end of summer 2018.

    -- Carol Eyerman, AICPNNECAPA Maine State Director


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