Maine Alliance for Road Associations
Has anyone had to tow another residents' vehicle that is intefering with the ROW?
No, but I'd be very careful about how you go about that. Our property is burdened by a private right of way that the owner had been using about one weekend a year. We needed a place to temporarily park a trailer, and we had no reason to think he would show up that day. But he did show up, on one of those rare circumstances while we were both out for the day. He had the trailer towed, but whoever towed it did so without raising the jack, with the result that they bent the jack so that it could not be raised or lowered. Then they parked it in our turnaround, in front of the vehicle that had the trailer hitch on it, so that we had no way to get the tow vehicle out so we could move the trailer, and we had no place to turn around because the trailer was in the way! Incidentally, we also have rights to use the same right of way, and the person who had our trailer towed has been known to park his vehicle in the right of way and disappear for the weekend. So we are apparently prohibited 365 days a year from parking in the right of way because he might need it one day a year, but he can park in it any time he chooses, and he can also block our turnaround to which he has no rights. Anyway, my point is that if you do have a vehicle towed because it's blocking the right of way, just make sure that you don't damage the vehicle in the process, and that you don't in the process block the owner's access. Don't give him as much right to complain about you as you have about him. I would also strongly suggest (if you have not done this already) that you first send him a polite note telling him that his vehicle is obstructing the right of way and asking him to kindly move it, as you would rather not be compelled to have it towed.
As a follow up, please look at the new post on E911, and on my response to it. I had thought that Title 17-A section 505 did not apply to private roads, but only to roads that are maintained at public expense. Well, in response to the E911 post, I looked it up once again and found that it was amended in 2017, and now defines "public way" as including ways "upon which the public has access as invitees or licensees." So the new version of the statute DOES appear to apply to private roads. Here is a link to the statute: http://legislature.maine.gov/legis/statutes/17-A/title17-Asec505.html I would suggest printing it out and keeping it on hand to give to the responding officer if your road gets obstructed again. My apology for not having been aware of the revision of this statute sooner.
Postscript - I still would recommend trying to find a friendly resolution first, before involving the police. If you are still having problems with your neighbor, keep in mind that he IS your neighbor, so you are going to need to find a way to peacefully coexist. Reporting him to the police may not be the best way to harbor good will! I would first want to know WHY he is blocking the right of way. Is there some reason why he cannot park in his own driveway? Does he perhaps need help shoveling it out? Or was the driveway too soft and muddy and he was trying to let it dry out before it froze into ruts? Maybe he needs a load of gravel? Or was he intentionally blocking the road because someone was chewing it up when it was soft? I find that when disputes arise over road access, there are always two sides to the story. Understanding the other person's point of view is often a good step towards resolution. Even if you don't agree with them, if you understand their issue and can make even some small concession, you may be able to de-fuse the matter before there is a more serious confrontation. In my dealings with discontinued roads, I have seen access disputes blow up all too often. My recommendation is always to try to find some amicable solution if at all possible.
I just ran across another statute that might be helpful for you if this situation arises again. My recommendation would be to have a copy of the statutes in hand when you call the police.
Title 17 §3853-C. Trespass by motor vehicle; civil violation
1. Violation. A person may not park a motor vehicle or allow a motor vehicle under that person's control to remain parked:
A. In a private drive or private way in a manner that blocks or interferes with the free passage of other vehicles without the permission of the owner of that private drive or way; or [PL 2011, c. 561, §2 (NEW).]
B. On a public highway in a manner that blocks the entrance to a private driveway, gate or barway. [PL 2011, c. 561, §2 (NEW).]
2. Penalty. A person who violates subsection 1 commits a civil violation for which a fine of not less than $500 must be adjudged.
3. Registered owner's liability for vehicle. There is a rebuttable presumption that a registered owner of a vehicle involved in a violation of subsection 1 has that vehicle under that person's control.
The one problem I see with this is the use of the term "private way." If you use the definition of private way in 23 MRSA section 3021, they could argue that section 3853-C only applies to public easements. But if you use the definition in 29-A MRSA section 101, paragraph 58,
Private way. "Private way" means a way privately owned and maintained over which the owner may restrict use or passage and includes a discontinued way even if a public recreation easement has been reserved.
So that would make section 3853-C apply to private roads where there is no public easement. This is one of the reasons I have argued for years that we need to go through all of the statutes and make sure the term "private way" is used consistently, or replace it with two clearly defined terms - one for privately owned roads and one for roads that are open to unrestricted public use. Unfortunately the waters have been further muddied in recent years by the practice of accepting private roads as public easements with the intent of allowing public snow removal. Even the definition in paragraph 58 above is in itself a contradiction in terms. Discontinued ways are now automatically retained not simply as recreation easements but as public easements that provide full public motor vehicular access, removing the owner's right to restrict access.
The Maine Alliance for Road Associations