WELLS – I disagree with Eli Lazarus’ Maine Voices opinion piece and perspective regarding coastal property owners and the rights and obligations of coastal property ownership (“Bad decisions about shorefront property no longer excusable,” July 30).

First, coastal property owners, by and large, have never asked the local, state or federal governments to solve any of the problems inherent in coastal property ownership.

Most coastal property owners would just as soon have the government, on all levels, leave them alone.

I suspect that if all property owners in Maine had to face the daunting regulations currently imposed on coastal property owners, there would be greater protests from the citizenry.

Today, even routine maintenance of a coastal property is limited or challenged through stricter interpretation of the regulations imposed upon these property owners.

I have read the report cited in this piece and find nowhere in it that a majority of coastal property owners want direct financial aid from government to maintain their property.

What most coastal property owners find distasteful and costly are the unfunded mandates imposed on them by government regulations, on all levels, that dictate how, when and under what circumstances their properties can be repaired or maintained.

In the absence of these strict regulations, most coastal property owners are secure in the financial obligation of maintaining their own property without government interference. If the costs become too high, then the option to sell is inherent to resolve that dilemma.

Before anyone brings up the National Flood Insurance Program administered by FEMA as a subsidy to rich coastal property owners, I will remind the reader that this program is an insurance program where the premiums collected are used to pay for losses.

While FEMA has the authority to “borrow” from the federal government in times of disasters, all borrowed money is paid back. It is a statistical fact that money collected from coastal flood insurance policy-holders pays more towards inland flood losses than for coastal losses, but that is the nature of insurance.

To me, the saddest statistic mentioned in the report and the opinion piece is that most coastal property owners, and a large percentage of local coastal community officials and leaders, do not believe or trust the information on coastal issues presented by the coastal “scientists,” as many believe there is a hidden agenda that is not being fully revealed.

Rather than find fault with the property owners as being non-believers, one would think the messengers would want to determine how and why they are failing in getting their constituents to believe in their message.

The so-called “retreat from the shore” regulatory scheme of the late 1980s and ’90s, espoused by several of the organizations mentioned in the column, was developed without input from the very people who would be most impacted by these decisions. Getting people to believe in a cause requires buy-in to the theory, and that only happens when those most affected have a real voice in the process.

One of the prime motivating factors that led me and others to form the organization “Save Our Shores-Maine” was to provide coastal property owner input into the process of developing new sand dune rules and other coastal management solutions.

Our organization was also instrumental in developing a new management agreement for piping plovers in the town of Wells that was successfully implemented through the cooperation and dedication of the town, citizen volunteers and regulatory authorities and has provided better protection than the “essential habitat” scheme that was initially forced upon the property owners.

We participated in the development of a State of Maine Beaches Policy, adopted by the Legislature, that provides comprehensive guidelines to improve, maintain and restore Maine’s beaches.

If we implemented but a few of the recommendations and procedures in this policy, Maine’s beaches and coastal properties would be far better off today, in spite of the concerns raised by sea-level rise.

Attempting to have a fair and balanced debate on this topic has proved difficult, which is why our organization will be holding one later this fall so that all sides of this important issue can be heard and more fully understood.

Giving coastal property owners a real stake in the decisions and outcomes will provide far better results. Applying the heavy hand of government regulations, under the auspices of the “we know what’s best for you” tactic, will never again fly.

Coastal property owners need an evenly weighted seat in the process, not a token footstool.


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