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Issues & FAQS

Private Property and Public Right of Way

A right-of-way is a right to make a way over a piece of land, usually to and from another piece of land. A right of way is a type of easement granted or reserved over the land for transportation purposes, this can be for a highway, public footpath, a canal, railway, electrical transmission line, oil and gas pipelines, etc. A right-of-way is reserved for the purposes of maintenance or expansion of existing services with the right-of-way. In the case of an easement, it may revert to its original owners if the facility is abandoned. 

A Property Owner's Responsibility

Streets and sidewalks are for everyone's use. They add value to private property by providing access to the property and a way to get to other places in the Town.

When purchasing a property on a municipal or State maintained roadway, property owners should understand that part of their land is deemed "public right-of-way" for streets, sidewalks, utilities and similar public uses. As a general rule of thumb the right-of-way is 33 feet off the center line of the roadway in Mechanic Falls.

The public right-of-way, gives the municipality the authority to use the right of way for the installation and maintenance of public utilities such as water, sewer, storm drainage and electricity. It also provides for the clearing of the roadway from snow as the right-of-way allows for the storage of accumulated snow until is melted by warmer weather. The municipality also has the right to keep the travel way clear for safety reasons and therefore can elect to prune trees and bushes or remove them altogether if they should present a hazard.


Property owners are responsible for providing a temporary or permanent driveway so that vehicles do not drive over sidewalks, planting strips or curbs. The construction of new driveways on a Town maintained travel way requires a Driveway Opening Permit, issued by the Town. Property on the State travel way must obtain a permit from the Department of Transportation.

Safe Use of Street Areas

Construction in, on, under or above a street area requires a Street Opening Permit. A street area includes sidewalks, and planting strips. Examples of construction which affect street right-of-way areas are signs, flag poles, awnings, rockeries, steps, clocks, driveways, and street trees. If you wish to construct a permanent structure within the right-of-way you should consult with the Town. The Town will not be liable for damaged to structures within the right-of-way. For more information call 345-2221.

Street Trees

Street trees planted by the Town will be maintained by the Town. All other trees are to be maintained to approved standards, by the abutting property owner.

In most cases, trees interfering with vehicle visibility will be trimmed by the municipality. All trees must be maintained to provide 8 feet of clearance above sidewalks and 14 feet above roadways. Contact Central Maine Power if tree limbs are near power lines or street lighting. They will determine if the tree needs to be pruned.

Complaints about tree overgrowth on private property should be reported to the Town. Tree planting, pruning and tree removal in public rights-of-way requires consultation with the Town.

Weeds, Debris and Garbage

To protect the health and safety of the public, it is important to keep streets, and sidewalks free of obstructions, litter, and other material.

Property owners must also prevent rubbish, garbage or waste material from accumulating on their property, sidewalks, or planting strips, regardless of who put the material there. To report illegal dumping, call the Town Office.

Dead Trees Along The Road

Decades ago, Mechanic Falls was well known for its streets lined with huge, majestic trees.
Many of these trees, well over 100 years old now, have been stricken with diseases, toxic waste
from leaking motor vehicles, damaging weather, road salt and just old age that have caused
them to die. There are now a large number of these trees that are in danger of falling into the
street or on people’s personal property. They are also an eye sore. So why doesn’t the town
just go around and cut them all down?

There are a couple of reasons why but it primarily boils down to the expense. Mechanic Falls
has well over 100 of these trees around town. Most of them are very large and their branches
over the years have woven themselves in and out of the power lines. These trees are extremely
tall and because of their proximity to the power lines, require a professional tree service with
specialized cranes and equipment to remove them. It is not uncommon for one of these trees to
cost over $1,200.00 to have removed.

Some folks will hastily draw the conclusion that because the tree is on the side of the road, it is
owned by the town and the town should be responsible for removing the tree. This is not
entirely true. In some areas, the town does own some of the property on the side of the road
and if a tree is within that property, the town owns the tree. However, more often the situation
is that the town only has a right of way on the edge of the road. A right of way is not the same
as ownership, it only grants an easement for the town to conduct road maintenance in that
area but any trees within that right of way are still owned by the actual property owner.

The fact that there are so many of these trees around the community the town council decided
that we could not afford to take down these trees and we would only take care of the trees in
the municipal parks and grounds or any tree that falls into the roadway. Although not a popular
decision, they were left with no choice as the alternative was to raise taxes to cover the
expense, which was even less popular.

The town used to have an annual budget to remove and replant trees. Due to budget
constraints that line item was reduced in the budget to eliminate the replanting of trees and
then eventually a few years after that, the budget was decreased to zero. Furthermore, because
there are so many, it was difficult to prioritize which trees were more hazardous than others.
The town now only keeps reserve funds to take care of trees that come down and present an
emergency situation. Those funds have been used in the past to go half with a property owner
who may have a tree that overhangs a sidewalk or home. The town manager should be
contacted if you would like to consider this as an option.

Town Snowplow Damaged My Property

Due to the heavy amount of snow, roadside visibility becomes very poor and as snow banks pile up, it becomes very difficult to find places to push it out of the roadway. The consequence of moving this snow results in some property damages to lawns, fences, mailboxes and other items placed too close to the road.

Each year we get phone calls from folks who received damage from winter road maintenance and are very disappointed to learn that the town is not liable for such damages. In the majority of these instances, Municipalities are exempt from liability under the Maine Tort Claims Act (14 M.R.S.A. §§ 8101-8118).

All public roads have a legal right of way. In most cases, it’s as much as thirty two feet off the center line of the road. This right of way needs to be clear at all times to ensure the safety of those traveling and to provide easement to the public services needing to access that space. We understand that people like to dress up their yards and landscape them to beautify their property. Permanent items are not supposed to be placed in the right of way as they are at high risk of damage and temporary items should be moved away from the road prior to the winter season. Mailboxes are an everyday necessity and should be properly installed to reduce the risk of damage from a snowplow. See the mailbox installation policy on the Town's website.

The guys from public works make every effort to avoid your personal property but if you have ever been in a snowplow when the snow is falling and the wind is blowing, you would understand how these guys can not always see items on the side of the road. When they do they try to avoid them but always need to consider on-coming traffic.

This is a friendly reminder that if you choose to place items within the right of way, they may get damaged or destroyed and the town will not pay to repair or replace them. Please keep this in mind when you are planning the layout of your yard improvement projects.

A couple of other items we would like to remind you of (if you had forgotten) and let you know (if you never knew to begin with). Plowing and dumping snow from your yard into the street, in hopes the snow plow will take it away, is illegal under Maine State Law. Not only do we already have a hard enough time trying to get rid of the stuff that is already there, but you are now creating a public safety hazard. Our snow plows may not be back in your neighborhood for some time and putting snow in the road way or leaving some behind while plowing it across the street could cause a motor vehicle to lose control.

One last thing... everyone wants to get the sand off their lawns as soon as possible. Please, please, please do not sweep it into the ditches. This creates drainage issues and future maintenance duties that ultimately cost you money in increased taxes. Once the threat of snow is gone, please sweep your sand into little piles on the edge of the road. They guys will be happy to pick them up.

Mailbox Policy