By Barbara Mitchell, July 2015
Taylor Pond, which once was a summer destination for local residents, has come to have more and more year round houses over the years. People have often asked me what percentage of properties have seasonal homes and what percentage are year round. So I decided to see what I could find out. Although this is not 100% accurate (since some houses deemed “year round” are not really used year round and a few deemed “seasonal” may be lived in year round), of the approximately 228 properties on the water or with deeded access to the water, about 148 are year round, 68 are seasonal and 12 are pieces of land only that might be buildable. That would put the percentage of year round homes on the pond at approximately 64%. In the past 5 years, 19 properties have sold through the Multiple Listing Service with the help of realtors at an average sale price of $332,000 for year round homes, $170,000 for seasonal properties and $130,000 for land only. Three new year round homes have been built, several have been improved or converted to year round, and a handful of others likely have been sold by owners or transferred to family members. The sale price of homes on the pond did dip when the housing bubble burst in 2008, but not as much as prices in the area overall. Because the supply of properties on the pond is limited and the demand for waterfront property right here in town is always there, properties have continued to sell well. Because Taylor Pond tends to be somewhat of a “local” waterfront community rather than a “destination” lake, prices tend to remain lower than some of the other (especially larger) waterfront communities, but have still been fairly steady. “Out-of-staters” that buy on the pond often have a tie to the area through family, Bates College, etc. The more expensive the property, the longer it often takes to sell, while the smaller seasonal camps often sell quickly with buyers frequently converting them to year round homes. Of course, conversions are subject to numerous complicated zoning ordinances, both state and local. The most well-known ordinance relating to non-conforming waterfront property expansion is likely to change later this year. New nonconforming structure expansion provisions have been enacted by the Maine Legislature and are contained within the proposed rulemaking to amend the Department of Environmental Protection Chapter 1000. Once that has been done, Auburn will most likely adopt the same guidelines shortly after. For years, expansion has been limited to less than 30% of the floor area and volume (whichever was less) over the lifetime of the structure (since the ordinances went into effect in 1989) and height limitations based upon the distance of the structure from the shoreline. Under the new standards, a nonconforming structure would be able to be expanded up to 30% of the footprint (including decks) of the structure or up to a certain established limit (based on setback from the shoreline), whichever is greater, without regard to volume. Structure height is also limited, much as it was with the previous expansion provisions, except that the new language allows the structure height to be either the established height limit or the height of the existing structure, whichever is greater. These new regulations simplify the calculations and may be less restrictive for some properties and more restrictive for others. Of course there are many other complicated guidelines that must be adhered to when building, rebuilding or expanding on the water, so it is important to check with the city before making any plans or buying or selling property on the pond to be sure you understand what can and cannot be done to the property. Auburn City Planners are very helpful in assisting residents make the most of their properties within the guidelines to preserve the water quality and, therefore, the value of everyone’s property on the pond. (For more specifics regarding current shoreland zoning ordinances you can go to: www.maine.gov/dep/land/slz/citizenguide.pdf One other thing to take into consideration in buying, selling, or expanding a property on the water is flood insurance. If the structure is in a flood zone as determined by FEMA, a lender will require flood insurance if there will be any type of mortgage or home equity loan on the property. So, just because the current property owner does not pay for flood insurance, this does not mean that a new owner won’t be required to because previous owner may no longer have a mortgage on the property.