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Press Herald Viewpoints
Press Herald home pagenewssportsbusinessviewpointsobituariesclassifiedspecial reportspersonalsarchive

Monday, December 23, 2002

EDITORIAL:

Shoreland crisis needs close look - and soon

Copyright 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

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The coast of Maine has many facets. Its beauty and charm have lured millions of tourists and others over the years. However, as a jumping-off point to some of the richest fishing areas in the world, it also supports a widely varied maritime industry.

Now, those two facets, which have existed side-by-side for generations, are at war. The area's scenery and casual way of life have begun to draw an influx of prosperous newcomers who are snatching up properties all along the coast. So much so, in fact, that those who make a living from the sea believe that the pressure of rising property values is driving them away from the coast - and thus out of business.

Now a new report, prepared by the Maine Coastal Program, will be submitted next month to the new Legislature and Gov.-elect John Baldacci.

The report studied 25 coastal communities from Kittery to Jonesport. It concluded that unless something can be done about "threats to access" to waterfront properties for fishing purposes, the industry will decline at a rapidly increasing rate.

Fishing is a very important industry, pumping $860 million into the state's economy and supporting 26,000 jobs. It is threatened, the report says, by: higher taxes; tourism and recreation demands; development pressures; a decline in commercial fishing because of reduced stocks; conversion of property to other uses; and deterioration of the industry's infrastructure.

While the report makes no recommendations, one does exist: It's the "Chebeague proposal," a plan floated by a number of fishermen and others to give owners of property anywhere in the state a tax break as long as the property remained dedicated to its current use.

It would only apply to land, which would be assessed at rates used five years ago, while buildings would be assessed at current rates. If the land is ever sold to nonfamily members or converted to other uses, the owners would pay penalties similar to those under the Maine Tree Growth law.

The plan has problems - lower tax rates would hit some towns hard - but the penalties might make up a lot of the difference.

It is clear that something needs to be done. Not only is a valuable resource at stake, but so is a way of life.


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