A paper street is a street shown on a subdivision land plan that has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds and has never been accepted by the town as a public right of way or otherwise constructed or regularly used by subdivision parcel owners as a private right of way to access their property. Paper streets are private rights of way for all subdivision parcel owners and the land under paper streets is not taxed. When a paper street is vacated the private right of way goes out of existence and the abutting parcel owners’ property boundaries move to the center of the vacated paper street. See Maine Revised Statutes M.S.R.A. Title 23 §3031and Maine Revised Statutes M.S.R.A. Title 23 §3032 .
The vacation of subdivision paper streets can jeopardize a parcel owner’s legal right to access their property. In September of 1997 the Selectmen of the Town of Long Island filed a request for a 20 year extension to prevent the automatic vacation of Long Island’s paper streets. See Town of Long Island – Notice to Extend Deadline of Vacation of Paper Streets) Prior to September 29, 2017 the Selectmen must decide if the town should allow the town’s paper streets to be automatically vacated on that date, request an additional 20 year extension to prevent their automatic vacation or devise another solution to this problem.
There are a number of Long Island land plans that have been recorded at the Cumberland County Registry of Deed since 1888 that created paper streets at the time they were recorded. Many of these paper streets have gone out of existence by being constructed and used as either public ways or private ways or by being formally vacated. Many others still exist.
At its January 2017 meeting the Planing Board created a subcommittee, the Paper Street Project Subcommittee, for the purpose of gathering data and writing a report on the current status of Long Island paper streets. This report will be submitted to the Board of Selectmen to assist them in deciding what to do about this issue before the September 29th deadline.