Talk of the town.
Our nationally-recognized municipal law team is one of the largest groups of its kind in the region, providing seasoned, responsive counsel on land use, municipal litigation, public finance, and tax-exempt bonds, labor and employment, tax increment financing, and property tax and valuation, among other areas.
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In addition to our deep, traditional practice expertise, our team also includes lawyers well-versed in legal issues relatively new to municipalities, including data security, technology, complex construction contracting, and more. Our public sector clients include a broad range of entity types, including municipalities, school, water, sewer and sanitary districts, regional planning commissions as well as councils of governments. This diversity of expertise is a big advantage for our public-sector clients. Likewise, our 360-degree understanding of municipal and public sector issues benefits our private-sector clients, as we can help them find the best way to work with their local governments, particularly with regard to land use development, tax increment financing and property tax.
Bernstein Shur can help. We routinely act as bond counsel to help clients borrow money at advantageous rates, so they can make the strategic infrastructure investments they’ve been planning. Moreover, we do more tax increment financing (TIF) than any other firm in the state, helping municipal clients plan and establish TIF districts and negotiate credit enhancement agreements. We also understand these constraints given our long history in this industry. We find ways to provide our services in the most cost-effective manner and we practice preventative law, to save our clients legal costs over the long term.
Given our experience over a long period of time representing governmental entities, we’re sensitive to the public-sector perspective—which makes us an even stronger partner for private property owners and developers navigating zoning restrictions, land use permitting requirements and procedures, property tax obligations, and challenges securing financing. Plus, we can efficiently and effectively represent private and nonprofit business interests before local governments and help work toward successful outcomes for both.
Our work in renewable energy captures the benefits of our diverse background and client base. When wind energy started to gain steam in Maine, municipalities weren’t sure how to assess it for tax purposes. At the time, there was not enough data for a meaningful income-based assessment model, and no market sales had occurred.
But we didn’t let that stop us from finding a solution. We worked with the data and information we did have—and coordinated with the Maine Revenue Service to develop a methodology that worked well for both parties. Our team reviewed each wind project’s capital expenditure budget, allocating portions among communities where appropriate. Then we developed a cost-segregation model that distinguished between hard costs subject to taxation and soft costs that should be eliminated as not entirely tied to tangible property interest or reduced from the project’s overall assessed value.
Our cost-based methodology was designed to be fair and predictable to property owner and taxing jurisdictions—and in the end, it improved goodwill between both parties.
Litigation—in response to judicial challenges—makes up the most significant chunk of legal expenses for most Maine municipalities. We practice preventative law in part to keep our clients from having to go to court. But we also try to avoid litigation for another reason: It’s often not the most efficient and cost-effective way to solve a legal problem. Instead, we seek out pragmatic solutions aimed at resolving current disputes and preventing future ones, so our clients can keep their focus on running their businesses and agencies.
We work closely with elected officials, board members, committees, and department heads, helping them develop the background and knowledge necessary to make the most of their time in office. We also partner with various other professional organizations and the Maine Municipal Association to provide training to municipal officials on a wide range of topics.
Our team members are ranked in Super Lawyers and Martindale-Hubbell.
Our practice includes:
- General municipal law
- Property tax matters
- Land use matters
- Tax increment financing
- Public finance/tax-exempt bonds/private activity bonds for private entities
- Labor and employment