LePage to decide which land deals Maine will fund

Gov. Paul LePage said this week that he plans to personally review and choose conservation and public easement projects before funding them with voter-approved bonds.

His announcement has been met with dismay by land trusts and private landowners uncertain what criteria LePage plans to use in judging projects that have already received approval by a state board.

The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

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Scarborough Land Trust buys Benjamin Farm | Keep Me Current

The Scarborough Land Trust has completed the purchase of the 135-acre Benjamin Farm property on Pleasant Hill Road. Land trust officials joined members of the Jerrerd Benjamin family at the closing on Dec. 12.

Located two miles from Higgins Beach, Benjamin Farm consists of open fields, woods and wetlands, and contains headwaters of the Spurwink River. It abuts Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge and is part of a wildlife and wetlands corridor that reaches to Scarborough Marsh. It is one of the last, large open spaces in one of the most populated areas of town.

via Scarborough Land Trust buys Benjamin Farm – Keep Me Current: News.

Court Approves LURC Rezoning for Plum Creek

The Supreme Court has removed one more hurdle for the developers of the Plum reek project around Moosehead Lake.  While the overall zoning has been changed, each individual project still needs to go through its own approval process.

The state supreme court supported the Land Use Regulation Commission’s rezoning of nearly 400,000 acres in the Moosehead region. The concept plan allows Plum Creek to create up to 975 house lots and two large resorts on roughly 16,000 of those acres over the next 30 years.

Plum Creek must receive permits for each subdivision or resort, all but guaranteeing the regulatory skirmishes with opponents are far from complete. But in the immediate future, the court’s ruling will trigger the completion of a conservation deal guaranteeing public access to 363,000 acres of timberland that will remain working forests. …

A Superior Court justice … halted the plan after determining LURC violated its own rules by not holding another public hearing before adopting a substantially rewritten rezoning application. He remanded the case back to LURC for additional hearings.

The Supreme Court disagreed Thursday. “We conclude that LURC did not violate its procedural rules and did not otherwise err by approving the rezoning petition and concept plan,” the court wrote.

via Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine.

Website for Mortgage Settlement

For more information on the settlement between the banks and states attorneys general is here:

http://nationalmortgagesettlement.com/

The settlement will provide as much as $25 billion in relief to distressed borrowers and direct payments to states and the federal government. It’s the largest multistate settlement since the Tobacco Settlement in 1998.

The agreement settles state and federal investigations finding that the country’s five largest loan servicers routinely signed foreclosure related documents outside the presence of a notary public and without really knowing whether the facts they contained were correct.  Both of these practices violate the law.  The settlement provides benefits to borrowers whose loans are owned by the settling banks as well as to many of the borrowers whose loans they service.

Bank of America to Reduce Principals

As part of the foreclosure settlement, Bank of America will be offering principal reductions on mortgages originated by Countrywide.  NY Times:

The cuts for homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth could total more than $100,000 each under the deal with the government, according to Dan Frahm, a spokesman for Bank of America. Bank of America hopes it will be able to reduce what it owes in penalties under the settlement by up to $850 million.

Case Note: Scope of Implied Quasi-Easement

The Maine Supreme Court recently issued an opinion on a case concerning the scope of an implied quasi-easement.  The case concerned the rights of a landowner to expand the use of a right-of-way that they use to cross railroad tracks.

Because there was no written easement in the deeds, the landowner first had to show a history of use to prove there was a right-of-way.  While the court found that there was a history of transporting farm equipment and supplies, the court limited the right-of-way easement to just that usage.  The landowner had wanted to extend power lines across the railroad as part of a development plan, but the court ruled that the landowner could not expand the right-of-way beyond its use as a “farm crossing.”

The case is Connolly v. Central Maine Railroad Co. If you have questions about your easement rights, feel free to contact me.

Supreme Court Rules on Intertidal Rights

The tussle in Maine over beach access between oceanfront property owners and members of the public goes back centuries. Beachfront owners, citing a colonial-era law adopted when Maine was part of Massachusetts, claim they own the shore all the way to the low-tide mark–and that the public can only use private tidelands if it’s for “fishing, fowling and navigation.” But the Maine Supreme Judicial Court last week shifted the landscape. It ruled 6-0 in favor of an Eastport scuba diver who wanted to access his neighbor’s property at low tide.

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