Maine Alliance for Road Associations
This is an email I had sent to MARA. I am also posting it here for member discussion.
Hello Roberta -
For my public policy work, I review all printed legislation on behalf of clients. I happened to take an interest in LD 192 not on behalf of any client, but because I own a camp in Maine.
Until I saw your testimony, I didn’t know that MARA existed. (BTW I just shot the padlock off my wallet and joined for 25 bucks! Just me, not our association.)
Our “association” is ad-hoc as opposed to formal/legal; our property owners essentially have a "gentlemen’s agreement" when it comes to road maintenance. We all pay a “voluntary” fee, which has three dollar levels, depending on whether the owner has year-round, seasonal, or occasional use. Nobody pays more than $100 per year. Our dues do not cover plowing -- just road maintenance, which is only a couple thousand dollars every three or four years to cover gravel, grading, ditching, etc.
I bought my own “yard truck” to plow, since most of the residents close their camps on Labor Day, yet one neighbor and I go to camp all winter. Back when I purchased my camp with the intent to use it year round I casually suggested that all owners ought to contribute to the plowing effort at the very least because their lender and insurer would certainly appreciate the public safety access that comes with a plowed road. No go, and I didn’t push it.
Our informal association has worked ok for decades, apparently with no collection problems (knock on wood).
I have always wondered whether a lender or an insurance carrier has ever balked at writing a property governed by an ad-hoc association like ours. To my knowledge it has not happened on our road, but the various testimony on yesterday’s bill tells me the risk is there. (Therefore it looks like we should support the bill, as it adds some certainty.)
Second, as property values increase, and as properties inevitably change hands, get upgrades, etc, I wonder whether my neighbors would be wise to establish a formal/legal association. My first home was a condominium, so I am familiar with the pros & cons of a formal association.
Your thoughts are welcome.
Welcome to MARA! I'm glad you found us. It's great to know that your informal road association has been working so well for so long. You are correct that L.D. 192 would assure that lenders will accept your informal road maintenance agreement as sufficient to qualify a property on the road for a loan. Here's hoping the bill makes its way through the legislature with that feature intact. If you want to submit testimony, there is another topic on this forum with instructions for how to do that.
It sounds like you have come up with a reasonable fee schedule that works for you, so my recommendation for now would be "don't rock the boat!" Still, it's good to know what other options are out there, in case it comes to a time when things don't go as smoothly. A lot of Statutory road associations use a fee schedule similar to yours, so there's no reason you couldn't decide to keep it that way if you do decide to go through the process of becoming a statutory road association. My main concern is that if people like having it informal, they might balk at making it too official. That's one of the reasons we fought to get L.D. 192 to accept any sort of road association, including informal agreements. I've known situations where a person agreed to contribute as long as there was nothing in writing.
That being said, if you ever run into problems with people refusing to pay, or if the road needs major work and you need to raise dues and some people object, those might be reasons for setting up a statutory road association as it gives you some enforcement powers. And of course as you noted, there could be issues with lenders or insurance companies that could make it advantageous to have something more formal.
As for winter plowing, charging more for those who use the road in winter is a widely accepted way of handling it. You might want to just stick with that, since the majority of members seem to be happy with it. As long as they are paying regularly, that might be the wise choice rather than to get someone upset so that they stop paying. But since you are correct that other members also benefit from the possibility of winter access for fire protection etc., you could just talk to the summer residents about it and hope they change their minds, or you could ask if they would be willing to make a voluntary donation towards it. Or you could consider that it’s one of the benefits everyone gets from the dues they pay even if they only reside there in summer, and suggest a small increase in everyone’s dues, proportional to the benefit they get as opposed to the benefit you get from actual winter use.
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations