May 17, 2024

Nangle’s water protection legislation signed into law by governor

AUGUSTA – On May 10, Maine Gov. Janet Mills held a ceremonial bill signing for legislation sponsored by State Sen. Tim Nangle, D-Windham. LD 2101, “An Act to Strengthen Shoreland Zoning Enforcement,” will give municipalities effective tools for combating shoreland zone violations.

State Sen. Tim Nangle
“This bill is a significant milestone in ensuring that Maine's communities have the authority they need to manage their natural resources effectively,” Senator Nangle said. “I'm thankful to my Senate and House colleagues for their bipartisan support and to Gov. Mills for signing this into law.”

LD 2101 allows but does not require municipalities to deny, suspend, or revoke locally issued permits to property owners who violate shoreland zoning ordinances. Under current law, even with ongoing violations, municipalities are required to issue permits, limiting their ability to ensure compliance with state and locally established regulations. The municipality would be required to provide the property owner with a 10-day notice, ensuring fairness and due process to property owners.

Typically, when the violation is resolved in court, the court assigns the cost of enforcing the violation and any applicable fines to the property owner. Then another fight ensues to collect those costs, which places another undue burden on the town's taxpayers.

To help combat this, LD 2101 allows a municipality to file a civil action against the owner or occupant to recover unpaid penalties; the cost to remove, abate, or otherwise correct the violation; and court costs and reasonable attorney's fees necessary to file and pursue the civil action.

If the case is resolved and the court has awarded costs in favor of the municipality, the town would then be authorized to claim a lien against the land on which the violation occurred to ensure that the legally awarded costs are paid.

LD 2101 also enhances transparency in real estate transactions by requiring sellers to disclose any known shoreland zoning violations to potential buyers.

The law will go into effect 90 days after this session of the Maine Legislature adjourns. <

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