Have you ever looked at a waterfront home and wondered “How did they do that? “Or” If I had known I would have done that myself”. Then you get angry, because you did not know and the opportunity was lost. If this is the case you may want to start to look at waterfront property in a different light. There are many instances that can turn a worn out cabin on the lake into a beautiful lakefront home.
When the state enacted shoreland zoning, they also limited your ability to expand a home or camp within that zone. Any property within 100 feet of the shoreline setback requirement could not expand more that 30 percent in floor area and volume, whichever was less.
A little later the Shoreland Zoning Act was amended to allow individual towns to further limit those expansions set by the state as long as the town incorporated those limitations into their local ordinances.
Then along comes 2013 when the legislature again amended the shoreland zoning laws. The new standards allow larger expansions and higher building heights depending on how far back you are from the high water mark. Some of the expansion sizes increased in range from 800 to 1,500 square feet of the footprint. The height allowances increased in range from 15 to 25 feet.
So now you must be ready to go out and improve and expand, right? Well hold on a moment. There are a few more things you need to take into consideration. You will not be able to make your home more nonconforming. Examples of this would be moving or expanding the structure closer to the waterfront. Another thing to keep in mind is that you may be asked to move the entire structure back from the water to the most practical extent. It makes you wonder “what is the most practical extent?” Is that to the back property line or is it right in front of the 10 ton boulder in my back yard? The new law appears to reward property owners for moving their homes further back from the high water line with larger expansions.
Right now individual towns can choose to adopt those rules today, wait until the Shoreland Zoning Unit at MDEP reviews/changes the guidelines or do nothing and keep the old standards. Ultimately the first step in your expansion project will be a visit to your local town hall to meet with the code enforcement officer. Hopefully they are or will be following the new expansion rules.
Alberta Byrnes is a Realtor Broker at Better Homes & Gardens The Masiello Group as well as a Certified Maine Assessor and sits on the Standish Planning Board.