March 8, 2024

Nangle bill to help towns protect water resources advances in Maine Senate

AUGUSTA — A bill from State Senator. Tim Nangle, D-Windham, to give municipalities and the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) more tools to enforce shoreland zone violations and protect local waters received bipartisan support in committee last week.

State Senator Tim Nangle
LD 2101, “An Act to Strengthen Shoreland Zoning Enforcement,” received a strong, bipartisan vote of 11-2 from the Maine Legislature’s Joint Select Committee on State and Local Government.

"Maine's water resources are vital to our communities, and ensuring their protection requires effective enforcement of shoreland zoning ordinances,” Nangle said. “LD 2101 gives municipalities and the Land Use Planning Commission the flexibility they need to address violations while providing property owners with a fair process to address the problem. I thank the Committee for the hard work that went into making this a bipartisan effort to uphold regulations that safeguard our precious waterfronts.”

LD 2101 allows, but does not require, municipalities and the Land Use Planning Commission (LUPC) to take action when property owners violate shoreland zoning ordinances. Before any action, the bill mandates that municipalities first must send a written notice to the violator, demanding correction within 10 days. This ensures a fair process for the property owner and acknowledges that many violations are accidental.

If violations persist after this notice, then municipalities and the LUPC would have the option to restrict, suspend or revoke permits issued to the property where the active violation is occurring. Currently, these entities are compelled to issue permits even in cases of ongoing violations, limiting their ability to enforce regulations effectively.

Additionally, if a municipality or LUPC is the prevailing party in a civil action against a violator, the bill permits the placement of a lien on the property with violations. This measure aims to prevent the transfer of such properties, providing municipalities with the financial means necessary to uphold laws safeguarding our waterfronts.

“Up to 85 percent of Maine’s fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals use the shoreland zone at some point throughout their lives,” said Francesca Gundrum, Policy Advocate with Maine Audubon. “State and municipal shoreland zoning laws exist to help conserve wildlife as well as to protect vegetation and water quality, limit erosion, and preserve the natural beauty of Maine's shoreland areas. Balancing the needs of both wildlife and human communities, this bill helps hold egregious shoreland zoning violators accountable, and we applaud Senator Nangle for his leadership in forwarding this initiative.”

The bill now goes to the full Maine Senate and Maine House for further votes. <

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