Paper Streets – Again! A Window that Closes September 29, 2017

Maine municipalities face another deadline for action to preserve their rights to accept the incipient dedication of undeveloped streets in “ancient” subdivisions recorded before September 29, 1987.

A statute enacted in 1987, 23 MRS § 3032, provided that paper streets in such subdivisions are deemed vacated unless the municipality constructed or used and accepted the street as a public way by the later of September 29, 1997, or 15 years after the date on which the subdivision plan was recorded. The law allows a municipality to extend the time for action by up to 40 years: an initial 20-year period and then a second 20-year period. That is, until September 29, 2017, and for another 20 years after that.

What does this mean for your municipality? Simply that if you took action to preserve the incipient dedication of paper streets before September 29, 1997, by recording a list in the Registry of Deeds, you now have the opportunity to extend the time for acceptance by another 20 years. To do that you must record a second list by September 29, 2017. Many Maine municipalities recorded lists before the first deadline. If so, they should review whether they wish to extend the period or let the deemed vacation of the public rights in these streets happen this September.

This is a very complicated issue and involves the interplay between common law rights and the statutory scheme. If you would like advice or help to walk through it, we would be glad to assist you.

Bryan M. Dench
Norman J. Rattey
Theodore Small

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Skelton Taintor & Abbott is a full service law firm providing legal services to individuals, companies, and municipalities throughout Maine. It has been in operation since its founding in 1853.