Friday, November 1, 2013

NNEPRA: ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ permits or zoning approvals for the MLF’

You may remember an earlier post on the NNEPRA Amtrak MLF proposal in which we cited DGiles. local Zoning Board of Appeals luminary, and the approval of a variance for the proposed facility.  This action took place in April, 2011, and you can find the approval document at

At that point in time, the proposed facility was approx. 39,000 square feet.  Since then, it has grown to 50,000 square feet plus.  It is the length (or width) of the Brunswick Super WalMart shown in the aerial photo below, and about half the depth of that building (from front to back in the photo).  It is 37 feet tall, or we would guess, about 12-15 feet taller than the average two story house.

Super WalMart Brunswick

Ronald Reagan once said something to the effect that the most terrifying words in the English Language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’  And so it is that Amtrak, their supporters, and NNEPRA come to impose their ‘help,’ wanted or not.

The folks opposing the location of the MLF adjacent to their in-town neighborhood obtained a NNEPRA letter dated May 25, 2011, that relates to this variance issue.  They received it in May of this year, and you can read it here:

The key passages are these:

One question that has arisen recently is whether NNEPRA is required to obtain local zoning and other land use approvals for the construction and operation of the proposed layover facility. NNEPRA has concluded that it is not required to obtain any such approvals. First, because the proposed layover facility is an "improvement undertaken . . . for the benefit of Amtrak, " no local zoning or land use ordinances apply. 49 U.S.C. § 24902U). Second, the United States Surface Transportation Board's exclusive jurisdiction over transportation by rail carriers preempts local authority over the construction and operation of the proposed layover facility.

In other words, think eminent domain on steroids; no rationale is required.  As to the earlier ZBAP granting of a variance, and DGiles role in same, the letter includes this footnote:

1 NNEPRA applied for, and, on April 21, 2011, was granted, a

dimensional variance in connection with the proposed layover facility. NNEPRA filed this application before NNEPRA was aware of the full extent to which federal law precludes any requirement that NNEPRA obtain local zoning or other land use approvals for the construction and operation of the proposed layover facility. Since it is now clear that the variance is not required, NNEPRA does not intend to record the certificate of variance approval that was issued to NNEPRA.

Which inspires us to add to the earlier Reagan thought, ‘we are the government, and therefore we can.’


1 comment:

  1. The establishment of a public corporation by the state legislature that is not a municipality is in violation of the Constitution of Maine. That said, everything that corporation does is illegal. If the people don't want the government in the railroad business or doing these things that are illegal they can petition the courts for redress. Unfortunately this will get them nowhere since the courts nearly always put their blessing on what the legislature does. We are no longer governed, we are ruled the irony being is we get to pick the rulers.