Operating a Shop on Home Property in Maine
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  1. #1
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    Default Operating a Shop on Home Property in Maine

    Hi all,
    Family is looking at some properties in Maine. I'm wanting to get an idea about the state's view of running a shop on my home property. Any one have shop on their property in Maine? What kind of issues from the state have you encountered. Any information is welcome. Thanks!

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    It will vary from town to town, just like building codes here in ME. Some towns could care less what you do, others are more controlling than you can imagine. You'll just need to do some homework with the town office. I do have personal friends that run machine/fab shops on their property and driving around it's quite common for many different types of shops (auto/small engine/etc). Just don't expect to do it downtown in a yuppie town without headaches.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCByrd24 View Post
    It will vary from town to town, just like building codes here in ME. Some towns could care less what you do, others are more controlling than you can imagine. You'll just need to do some homework with the town office. I do have personal friends that run machine/fab shops on their property and driving around it's quite common for many different types of shops (auto/small engine/etc). Just don't expect to do it downtown in a yuppie town without headaches.
    Good to know. Looking at property near the coast and closer to Portland (maybe within 30-45 min drive). Thanks for the info.

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    County to county and township to township will differ..............may apply but I am in MN.................. I put a contingency on my offer when I bought my property. The sale would go through pending the county approval of a business on the land. Some sellers won't care. But if property is selling hot and fast in the area, you'll get passed over. It gives you time to do all of your research. It would suck to buy and then find out all you can do on your property is have a lemonade stand...............and even that would require a variance and a permit..........
    Last edited by david n; 03-05-2019 at 03:07 PM.

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    All depends on what your doing, heavy forgeing or swiss watch parts, details greatly effect the outcome of just trying to get away with it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BugRobotics View Post
    Good to know. Looking at property near the coast and closer to Portland (maybe within 30-45 min drive). Thanks for the info.
    Adama's thoughts are really right on the money. Basement or garage shop vs a new 50'x100' steel building with 3-phase power is apples and oranges.

    The Portland area and surrounding coastal communities will be the toughest. It's the most yuppie area of the whole state (and also most expensive), and most likely to encounter town zoning and also home owners association limitations. But even within Portland and surround towns there are plenty of mixed zoned areas in addition to the strict residential or even HOAs. It'll really just require some specific homework about the specific property you're interested in. I'm about 40 minutes from Portland and spending a lot of time there lately, PM me if you have specific questions.

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  11. #7
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    I know one person who has a home shop in an out-building in Portland. I actually used to live right down the street from him and never knew it was there. Lots of houses have large detached garages/barns, especially if you get out of Portland proper. The other thing to watch for is that machine shop is sometimes a specifically allowed use in residential zoned area, whereas general light industrial usage is not allowed without a variance.

    Another concern may be access. Many of the smaller residential roads are posted in the winter to limit damage. UPS/Fedex trucks will get there, but you're not getting any larger deliveries until spring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by adama View Post
    All depends on what your doing, heavy forgeing or swiss watch parts, details greatly effect the outcome of just trying to get away with it.
    I'm doing relatively small machining (most of the stuff I machine is less than 2ft x 2ft x 2ft) work with CNC mill, lathes, surface grinding, sheet metal fabrication and welding. No forging hammer...yet. I'd prefer to not try to get away with anything and do things by the book.

    Quote Originally Posted by JCByrd24
    Adama's thoughts are really right on the money. Basement or garage shop vs a new 50'x100' steel building with 3-phase power is apples and oranges.

    The Portland area and surrounding coastal communities will be the toughest. It's the most yuppie area of the whole state (and also most expensive), and most likely to encounter town zoning and also home owners association limitations. But even within Portland and surround towns there are plenty of mixed zoned areas in addition to the strict residential or even HOAs. It'll really just require some specific homework about the specific property you're interested in. I'm about 40 minutes from Portland and spending a lot of time there lately, PM me if you have specific questions.
    Good to know, thanks. I'm wanting to go the steel building (or existing building) route. Not concerned about 3-phase as I run phase converters now. I've had my shop in garages for a number of years and ready to upgrade. I know I will not be buying into an HOA again. I'll be sure to take you up on the questions when we get narrowed in on some properties.

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    I find that the difficulties are not as simple as having neighbors that appreciate you...as I've only got one asshole that's called the zoning board....and his complaint was for my rooster and my "junk". The inspector was happy when I got rid of the rooster...and the "junk" will be fixed by a privacy fence.

    My difficulties are more mundane. The forklift doesn't go through the 7 foot tall standard garage door. I can't have a machine delivered by semi truck...so ordering a machine out of state means having an intermediate dropoff location. 24' long steel is hard to store, and also has to be picked up rather than dropped off by truck. Shipping something out LTL without paying for a short truck or delivering at the trucking company. It's harder to get good contracts, because you don't want to look serious enough that people can tell just by the look of the shop that you are capable.

    But as was said...township specific zoning is where you really need to research. In my case, it was lots of ag properties and houses with projects and old cars. They don't give a damn about me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowman View Post
    I find that the difficulties are not as simple as having neighbors that appreciate you...as I've only got one asshole that's called the zoning board....and his complaint was for my rooster and my "junk". The inspector was happy when I got rid of the rooster...and the "junk" will be fixed by a privacy fence.

    My difficulties are more mundane. The forklift doesn't go through the 7 foot tall standard garage door. I can't have a machine delivered by semi truck...so ordering a machine out of state means having an intermediate dropoff location. 24' long steel is hard to store, and also has to be picked up rather than dropped off by truck. Shipping something out LTL without paying for a short truck or delivering at the trucking company. It's harder to get good contracts, because you don't want to look serious enough that people can tell just by the look of the shop that you are capable.

    But as was said...township specific zoning is where you really need to research. In my case, it was lots of ag properties and houses with projects and old cars. They don't give a damn about me.
    I know what you mean. People look at me like a criminal when they see me working on my machines sometimes. Drives me nuts. For some reason it's totally cool to have a 400 HP car but a 5 HP motor that spins is crazy . We will be buying a fair amount of property as there will be farming. Hopefully that also means I'm not going to have close neighbors. Your mundane worries are what I already have been dealing with for years so I'm not too concerned there and the plan is to buy property with an existing building or build one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BugRobotics View Post
    We will be buying a fair amount of property as there will be farming. Hopefully that also means I'm not going to have close neighbors.
    Given this statement you will likely have very few issues. I'm only guessing but I think the farming aspect will be the bigger issue, but we certainly have farms all over Maine. A shop like you describe would likely go unnoticed on most farms.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DanielG View Post
    Another concern may be access. Many of the smaller residential roads are posted in the winter to limit damage. UPS/Fedex trucks will get there, but you're not getting any larger deliveries until spring.
    That's an issue here for rural residents. I know of a few welding type shops that are located on farms on township roads. Weight limits are halved from Jan 15th to April 15th. If you get steel delivered on a semi or ship parts out on an LTL, you're shut down for those 3 months.

    Some businesses just up and close for that time. I know a rock quarry that does. The only access is by a posted road. Farmers too can't ship their grain or animals.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ewlsey View Post
    That's an issue here for rural residents. I know of a few welding type shops that are located on farms on township roads. Weight limits are halved from Jan 15th to April 15th. If you get steel delivered on a semi or ship parts out on an LTL, you're shut down for those 3 months.

    Some businesses just up and close for that time. I know a rock quarry that does. The only access is by a posted road. Farmers too can't ship their grain or animals.

    Yeah I made sure I covered all that too when I moved..............10 ton Co Rd.........................also 3PH, good cell reception, high speed inter-web, and the county lets me have a home occupational business(no commercial property tax).

    The county zoning board said they don't care what I do out here............ weld, machine, wood working, autobody shop, etc...............They just said no out door storage(junk piles)..............I laughed and asked them if they have seen a few of the farms in my neck of the woods..............One board member said with a wink, "Good point. Just keep it orderly."

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    You can run a shop at home and not worry about zoning. Back during President Kennedy's time he signed into law that limits zoning boards from stopping a home business. There are limits, if I recall one employee, no signs and I'm sure a few others. I was running a small machine shop in the basement of my home, brought home work from my job. My neighbor complained I was doing work in a residential area! This guy was a nut case, I swear he mowed his grass with a pair of scissors! Zoning officer came to talk to me and said I had to stop. I mentioned the law I listed above and he checked on it, I was right and my neighbor told that I was allowed to continue. I was told the law was started by some Rich Lawyer that lived in a rather exclusive neighborhood but his wife enjoyed selling Avon products and had a Avon party from time to time in their home plus the delivery's from UPS. They tried to stop her but he fought and won and pushed the law to be made.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JCByrd24 View Post
    Given this statement you will likely have very few issues. I'm only guessing but I think the farming aspect will be the bigger issue, but we certainly have farms all over Maine. A shop like you describe would likely go unnoticed on most farms.
    I would agree with that. I know people that have bigger shops in more residential areas. I doubt anyone would blink at a large shop setup 'used' for maintaining farm equipment, regardless of what you do in there. You'd be surprised what people fit in garages when it comes down to it. Don't be obvious or obnoxious about it and most people don't care.


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