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Proposed Law Would Compensate Maine Landowners For Devalued Property

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by Terrilyn Simpson

One Maine landowner has called LD 1810 “common sense legislation that brings much needed reform to help protect property owners in Maine.”

The proposed legislative bill deals with the diminished value of privately owned land as the result of land use regulations and compensation for the devaluation.

The bill, An Act to Implement Recommendations of the Committee to Review Issues Dealing with Regulatory Takings, will be debated at public hearing on Tuesday, February 21 before the Judiciary Committee of the Maine Legislature.

Also being referred to simply as the Regulatory Takings bill, LD 1810 is the result of findings of a legislative study committee convened after two previous bills on the issue failed to receive enough support to pass. Legislators did, however, conclude that the topic warranted a more comprehensive look — thus the Study Committee.

The study committee, chaired by Senator Mike Thibodeau of Waldo County, issued a divided report — the Majority Report resulted in LD 1810.

According to the bill summary, LD 1810 is intended “to establish standards for relief when state regulation imposes an inordinate burden on an individual property owner, as well as efficient mechanisms for pursuit of such relief.”

Representative Ralph Sarty (R-Denmark), a member of the Judiciary Committee, wrote in a pro-LD 1810 analysis that the bill will provide relief “when a regulatory regulation reduces the value of property more than 50 percent.” Current law stipulates “there must be 100 percent takings.”

Further illustrating his point, Sarty wrote, “Regulatory takings are closely related to the doctrine of eminent domain. When the state takes an entire parcel by eminent domain to build a highway, the Constitution mandates that the state compensate the individual. Why should it be any different—not as a matter of constitutional law, but simply as a matter of fairness—if the state passes a law that erases 90 percent of a parcel’s value? Should the state not be required to compensate that individual somehow?”

According to the Maine Forest Products Council, “Passage of LD 1810 would force the legislature to consider the financial impact of future land use laws and regulations.  The legislature would have to consider the costs each new law would incur to the state rather than forcing the financial loss onto the impacted landowners who would previously have no avenue for financial compensation. Simply put, if the public wants to restrict and control private land use then they should be held responsible for compensating the landowner for loss of value to the land.”

The bill is not without critics, among them, the Maine Coast Heritage Trusts, which argues that LD 1810 takes too much power away from the legislature. “Experience in the several other states (e.g., Florida and Oregon) that have enacted this kind of ‘takings’ law is that legislatures simply decide not to enact new laws or regulations in the first place, even if they might be justified by the facts; they prefer to avoid the risk of litigation and compensation.”

The public hearing will be held at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 before the  Judiciary Committee in Room 438 of the State House.

Members of the Judiciary Committee include:

Senator David R. Hastings III (R-Oxford), Chair
Senator Richard G. Woodbury (U-Cumberland)
Senator Cynthia A. Dill (D-Cumberland)
Representative Joan M. Nass (R-Acton), Chair
Representative G. Paul Waterhouse (R-Bridgton)
Representative Michael G. Beaulieu (R-Auburn)
Representative Ralph W. Sarty, Jr. (R-Denmark)
Representative Bradley S. Moulton (R-York)
Representative Leslie T. Fossel (R-Alna)
Representative Charles R. Priest (D-Brunswick)*
Representative Maeghan Maloney (D-Augusta)
Representative Megan M. Rochelo (D-Biddeford)
Representative Kimberly J. Monaghan-Derrig (D-Cape Elizabeth)

*Ranking Minority Member

About Steve Robinson

Steve Robinson is the former editor of The Maine Wire and currently the executive producer of the Kirk Minihane Show. Follow him on Twitter @BigSteve207.

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