Maine Alliance for Road Associations
Is there a definition of what is considered road maintenance ? The statutes limit dues collected to "road maintenance". Some of our members have a very limited definition of road maintenance. They say it does not include speed limit or warning signs and dues cannot be used for speed bumps or vegetation clearing. If there is a legal definition of what can be done on association roads it would be a great help.
Under 23 MRSA 3101, "'Maintenance' includes, but is not limited to, snowplowing, snow removal, sanding and ice control; grading and adding gravel and surface material; installing, cleaning and replacing culverts; creating and maintaining ditches, drains and other storm water management infrastructure; creating and maintaining sight distances on curves and at intersections; and cutting brush, trees and vegetation in the right-of-way."
So cutting trees and brush is specifically included so long as it is within the right of way (as opposed to the traveled way) or is for visibility on curves and at intersections. There is also the clause, "but is not limited to" at the beginning of the definition, which leaves a little wiggle room. I would say that anything related to safe travel on the road could be considered maintenance, so signs could be included. Another consideration would be to compare the duties of the road association to the duties of a town road commissioner or the DOT. Whatever they would have authority to do, a road association should also have the authority to do.
We have interpreted the "not limited to" clause to allow our road association to purchase and install speed limit and other safety signs as well as clear vegetation from ditches and to maintain "line of sight" along curves.
I should add that, in our bylaws, we have excluded snowplowing, sanding, and other winter services from activities our road association is permitted to fund. We did have a culvert freeze last winter causing the road to erode and the board agreed that clearing the culvert was permitted to prevent damage to the road.
It seems there is considerable variability in road maintenance actions owner/members are willing to pay for with annual assessments. Certainly, maintenance activities as defined in § 3101 are useful as a basis for decision making. However, as Roberta points out, it’s nice to have the wiggle room offered by the phrase “but is not limited to” preceding the enumeration in the Statute.
What follows is consistent with Roberta's statement above. Owner/members have the right to choose maintenance actions they believe necessary to permit safe travel on their private road based on its situation and use. Therefore, through the association by-laws or by majority vote at a meeting duly called, let the owner/members decide:
1. Road maintenance actions necessary in addition to those listed in the Statute, and
2. Actions listed in the Statute unnecessary for their road.
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations