lakefront home construction in maine

Waterfront Development

Living The Dream

Building a lakefront home is something that most people can only dream about. If you're fortunate enough to be actively pursuing that dream, or have already set up your Adirondack chairs, PATCO Construction can help! PATCO is fully versed in DEP permit requirements, as well as all set back regulations. We're ready with the skill and experience to get you through the special challenges that waterfront construction / renovation presents. PATCO has been building on Southern Maine and New Hampshire waterfronts for over a quarter of a century - that's experience you can trust!

Shoreland Zoning FAQ

Shoreline zoning regulations can seem overwhelming. Take the stress out of building your special retreat - let PATCO handle all of the necessary build requirements - we're experts!
Yes. In recognition of the importance of the shorelands of Maine's lakes, rivers, wetlands and the ocean to the state's environment and economy, a Shoreland Zoning Act was first enacted in 1971. Since then, these controls have been revised and expanded. This act established minimum zoning standards for all towns and municipalities to adopt, and gave the state an oversight role. IMPORTANT: Local governments had to meet these requirements, but they could be more stringent than the state's guidelines, so with any specific property/project, it is important to contact the local government. Towns have the role of issuing permits, appointing a Code Enforcement Officer to enforce the ordinances, and collect fees and record all transactions.
  • All land within 250 feet of the highwater line of any pond over 10 acres, any river that drains at least 25 square miles, and all tidal waters and saltwater marshes.
  • All land within 250 feet of a freshwater wetland over 10 acres.
  • All land within 75 feet of streams that are an outlet of great ponds or streams below the confluence of 2 perennial streams.
  • The municipalities must map these areas and establish districts or zones within these areas for protected districts and residential, commercial or mixed-use districts.
It is measured horizontally from the normal high water line, or in the case of a wetland, the "upland edge". It is NOT the uphill distance.
These are "non-conforming" and usually pre-date the ordinance. A common situation is where a building is sited too close to the water. These non-conforming uses may be repaired, renovated and maintained without a permit, provided no expansion occurs.
No. The law does not permit any expansion towards the water if the structure is already less than the required setback. However, a non-conforming structure that existed on January 1, l989 may be expanded less than 30% (based on the floor area and volume of the structure), but only to the part of the building that is within the required setback - and, of course, with a permit. Local municipalities may adopt some other alternatives to the 30% rule. See the local ordinance.
It may be possible to build a new or enlarged basement under the structure. It may be possible to relocate the structure. If a building is damaged or destroyed and loses more than 50 % of its value, it may be possible to rebuild it. See the local ordinance.
Shore frontage (the width of the lot at the waterfront) and overall lot sizes standards vary, depending on the type of use and type of water body. Generally, the following minimum standards apply:

  • Tidal Waters Inland Waters
  • Residential Lot Size: 30,000 square feet, 40,000 square feet
  • Residential Lot Frontage: 150 ft. shore frontage, 200 ft. shore frontage
  • Commercial Lot Size: 40,000 square feet, 60,000 square feet
  • Commercial Frontage 200 ft. shore frontage, 300 ft. shore frontage

The minimum lot width within 100 feet of the shoreline can be no less than the shore frontage standard.

Note: Land below normal high-water and roads cannot be included in the lot area. The frontage and lot size requirement applies to each principal structure or dwelling unit.
A non-conforming lot that predates the local ordinance may be built upon either with or without a variance, depending on the situation, See the local Code Enforcement Officer.
The setback for structures on great ponds or rivers flowing into great ponds is 100 feet. A 75 foot setback applies to all other water bodies, streams and wetlands.
Yes. The maximum height of a new or expanded structure is 35 feet, measured from the downhill side of the building to the roof peak. Additionally, the first floor must be at least one foot above the 100 year flood elevation. See the local town office.
Yes. Because solid surfaces increase runoff, the total area of a lot coverage by structures, driveways, parking areas, decks, patios, and other non-vegetated surfaces is limited to 20% in shoreland areas.
The setbacks are generally the same as for structures, But there are specific requirements as to banks, grades and drainage that should be investigated. See the local Code Enforcement Officer.
Yes. Before any development is undertakes, it is essential that state and local standards be investigated. In the case of earth disturbance within 100 feet of a water resource, a permit may be required for excavating, filling, grading, placing riprap, maintaining or replacing structures including docks and retaining walls. Stormwater vegetated buffers, while not always required, are strongly encouraged to help prevent erosion and polluted runoff into water bodies.
Yes. Septic systems can work effectively for 25 years or more if properly maintained. But its often a case of out of sight, out of mind. A system can be failing or polluting nearby surface water without there being visible signs. So before purchasing property with a septic system, ask for documentation on design, location and maintenance, look for signs of failure and have the system professionally inspected.

If a new septic system is contemplated, it must be designed by a Maine licensed site evaluator and installed according to the standards in the Plumbing Code, as administered by the local Plumbing Inspector, with a permit, of course.
On great ponds and rivers flowing into them, there is a 100 foot buffer zone:
No more than 40% of the total volume of trees over 4 inches in diameter may be harvested in any 10 year period.
Vegetation less than 3 feet in height, including ground cover, cannot be removed.
Pruning the lower 1/3 of tree branches within the buffer is permitted.

On all other water bodies the buffer zone is 75 feet and clearing is limited to 40% of volume in a 10 year period and no cleared openings. Also within these buffer zones:
No opening within the forest canopy can exceed 250 square feet.
A winding footpath is allowed, its width depending on the body of water.
Selective cutting is allowed according to an established rating system.
Clearing beyond the buffer zones and timber harvesting is also regulated. See the local ordinances.
Yes. But you may be required to obtain a seasonal conversion permit from the local Plumbing Inspector to ensure adequate subsurface wastewater disposal systems are in place to handle increased usage.
Private campsites are subject to the following standards:
only one site per 30,000 square feet of lot is permitted; tents, recreational vehicles, cars, trailers, etc., must be set back 100 feet from a Great Pond, or river flowing to a Great Pond, and 75 feet from other water bodies;
no permanent foundation, except for a gravel pad, is allowed; clearing in the Resource Protection District is limited to 1000 square feet; approval of the method of sewage disposal is required from the Local Plumbing Inspector; and if the camper, tent, vehicle, or shelter is on-site for more than 120 days of the year, residential structure and sewage standards must be met.
While it is permissible to pull water from a lake or river, the problems are potability and freezing of waterlines, so this is typically a seasonal source for uses other than drinking. Drilled wells (often called artesian here) are the best permanent source, with the probability of finding water in Maine being excellent. For an already developed property with a water source, water quality, quantity and the performance of the systems should be tested by a lab and/or a well contractor.

A Beautiful Environment - Inside and Out

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Protect Your Valuable Investment

With time, everything becomes "dated." The weather takes it's toll, leaks appear, doors warp, floors sag ... families grow and suddenly cozy becomes cramped. Sooner or later that sweet smell of pine is replaced by an unpleasant mustiness. PATCO not only constructs new lakefront homes, we also remodel existing camps, cottages and homes. Whether it's your permanent address or a seasonal retreat, enjoy every bit of your perfect spot - inside and out!
A lake is the landscape”Ēs most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth”Ēs eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.
Henry David Thoreau
maine lake homes