Paper Streets: Plan Now For 2017 Deadline
For municipalities that exempted certain unaccepted ways, or paper streets, from being deemed vacated by operation of law, the 2017 deadline for the next and final 20-year extension is approaching. According to Maine law, a proposed, unaccepted way laid out on a subdivision plan recorded prior to September 29, 1987 is deemed to have been vacated if by September 29, 1997 (or 15 years after the subdivision plan is recorded, whichever is later) the way has not been constructed, used or accepted as a public way or easement.
The law provides one exception to that rule: municipalities may prevent an automatic vacation by filing a notice of extension in the registry of deeds. Municipalities may file for an additional 20-year extension by filing a new notice prior to the expiration of the first 20-year period.
What This Means for Municipalities
Extensions that were filed in 1997 will expire in 2017. Affected municipalities have five years to review the list of paper streets that were saved from automatic vacation and determine which, if any, of those proposed ways should be saved from vacation for an additional 20 years. Depending upon the number of older paper streets that remain, the review could be a time-consuming process; planning ahead is essential. Five years may seem like a long time, but many municipalities need to begin the process today in order to avoid automatic vacation.