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Building A Boat House On A Maine Lake, How’s That Shoreland Zoning Work?

Building A Boat House On A Maine Lake, How’s That Shoreland Zoning Work?
Waterfront Properties In Maine!

Shore land zoning, the property on the Maine lake and what can you do to it if you buy it?

Valuable information and involves a crash course on shore land zoning in Maine lake properties. The 250 foot shore land zoning strip around Maine’s waterfront is a sacred designation. No one wants to knowingly hurt the waterfront habitat and should be sensitive to why the regulations are in place. Because no protection of the Maine lake natural resource and there won’t be anything worthwhile to pass on to the next generation.

Being a good steward and respecting the lake water quality and development around the waterfront isn’t something you just know as a young grasshopper.

It is taught through example by whoever owns and protects the shore land zone around a Maine lake. They teach who they pass the property to the respect for the natural habitat. To tread lightly.

So boat houses on a Maine lake, what about shore land zoning, can you put one up to get the watercraft under cover?

If there was no boathouse on the shore land you are about to purchase. No you can not. If there is no grandfathered structure to preserve and improve. Forget the boathouse dream. The boat house on the Maine lake was a structure in place before the shore land zoning was set u. Prior to the rules and regulations drafted into shore land zoning law. loons4

What if there is a leaning, sorry looking boat house that someone years ago put into play out front of the cottage or lake front camp or home?

The mandatory shore land zoning act of Maine was put into play in 1971. And steadily the protection regulations for Maine waterfront properties have been beefed up, better defined by the state. With local municipalities adding their own added regulations  above and beyond the Maine shore land zoning law.

I tell someone as a Maine real estate broker to not tear down or remove the existing boat house on the shoreline of a lake without getting the local town officials involved.

Document what you are going to do with date, times, paperwork copies of all correspondence. Talking to the code enforcement officer before you get out the hammer and nails is wise. Partner up with that individual who often in small Maine towns wears the same hat in many of the municipalities lucky enough to have lake, river, pond, ocean or any waterfront resources within the town or plantation limits.

Many boat houses have iron rails that extend into the Maine lake water.

To create a cradle to carry the boat up and into them to protect from the weather. To get them up and out of the water, safe and secured inside a lakeside “garage”. To avoid having to hook onto a boat trailer, haul it to expensive storage. And reverse the process the following spring to truck it back to the Maine lake. To re-float that boat. lake kayaks 1

In addition to structures like a boat house, other factors for changing the existing property have to be considered.

How high is the improvement, how much of the lot is affected by the size of the modification of say an addition.

And set backs from the property lines, distances from the well and septic system have to be calculated to make sure everything fits. And meets the requirements of the shore land zoning regulations guiding the process.

What if there are trees on the portion of lake lot in Maine you want to modify? Oh oh, there are clearly defined standards for clearing the lot on a Maine lake too. To use as a guide for clearing vegetation, removal of trees and adding fill. Buffers along the shoreline help water from racing to the lake’s edge and dumping in contaminants of soil and other debris. If a Maine fish could talk, it would say it is not fond of lawns, of weed and feed or development along the shoreline where the bird’s it nests.

More on adding on to your waterfront property in Maine.

If the structure is on a non conforming lot, and the set back required for new buildings is possible.For starters, What is a non-conforming shore land zoning structure? It is one that does not meet one or more of the following requirements. The shoreline setback (including setbacks from tributary streams), the height, or lot coverage. It is allowed to remain in place solely because it was in lawful existence at the time the ordinance or subsequent amendments took effect.

“Non-conforming structures can be maintained and improved, without a permit, as part of normal upkeep. However, significant reconstruction or repair, additions, expansions, or relocations require a permit from the municipal officials before work can begin. There are limitations on the expansions of non-conforming lot structures too. Since January 1, 1989 the State’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act (Section 439-A(4)) has prohibited any portion of a structure which does not meet the shoreline setback requirement (typically 75 or 100 feet) from being expanded by 30% or more in floor area and volume. In addition, such structures cannot be expanded closer to the shoreline.”

I have seen cases of non-conforming structure owners working with the town officials to remove this shed, to add this deck.

And negotiating to improve the waterfront property for erosion. For visibility from out on the water and for safety reasons on steep sloped lots. Common sense can still be salt and peppered through out the process. What really messes up the lake front construction plans? When started without the all important touching bases with the local authorities for permits. And then the property owner getting upset because of shore land zoning violations that could have been avoided with a phone call, a visit to the property and simple communication. carpenter drews lake long

Those most upset with the administrator of the shore land zoning ordinance compliance?

They are the property owners who avoid reaching out and having the discussion on whether a shore land zoning permit is needed or not.
And if what they intend to do jives with how the code enforcement, zoning, planning board folks interpret the situation.

The waterfront property buyers who lament that an empty unimproved lot does not have a golf course green, trimmed lawn rolling to the lake’s edge.

Like the one an existing home has next door. That neighboring property starts the envious nature to come alive with chatter. The neighbor wants a boat house to go with their plans to use and enjoy the lake front property they are fishing to buy. Better find and buy an existing waterfront property that has the features in place all grandfathered in.
The defense is weak when whined “Well my neighbor, lots of folks around the Maine lake shoreline have this much lot cleared or this big a McMansion structure or boathouse, no boulders, etc. It is akin, like all my friend’s parents let them do this or that Mom or Dad. The law of the land is today’s standards for building on the empty, unimproved Maine lake lot. To protect it for generations to come.

Further north you go in Maine, the cleaner, less populated the waterfront. And the cheaper priced are the properties for sale you find around the Maine lake.

Milfoil aquatic vegetation is missing along with other problems caused by man not Mother Nature. Fifty percent of the erosion abound a Maine lake waterfront is due to man’s use and construction of roadways to access the lake front properties. Not designed right, culverts if any too small and not properly placed. Grading non-existing or done incorrectly which causes erosion from over use and under-design. And lacking plunge pools. The rock lined ditches to slow the water down. That you do not want to speed up as it gets closer to the precious Maine lake resource. The junk in fast moving water is carried. Will dump into the water out front your place. That’s why shore land zoning is so important to protect the natural resource.

It can be more advantageous to search the property listings along the Maine lake. To buy existing, grandfathered in waterfront real estate with structures all in place.

Than limited, restrictive unimproved waterfront lots present to the property buyer wanting to have a Maine lake for a neighbor. Because everyone knows, waterfront, being parked next to the fresh air, clear water of a Maine lake fixes everything! If you are lucky enough to be smack dab on or near the waterfront  at a property in Maine. Just keep an eye on new laws and regulations with the Maine shore land zoning waterfront do’s and don’ts.

I’m Maine REALTOR Andrew Mooers, ME Broker

207.532.6573 |  [email protected]  | 

MOOERS REALTY 69 North Street Houlton Maine 04730 USA


Andrew Mooers

Welcome to our Maine real estate website. I am the father of four grown children, have listed, marketed, sold properties for over forty years. Lots of changes in the real estate industry over that many decades and daily we re-invent our job. I grew up on a Maine farm that I bought from by three older brothers. My youngest son continues in the tradition on that same Maine farm. Here to help with property searches for homes, farms, land, waterfront, multi housing rentals, small mom and pop business listings.

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