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A First for Maine

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
This fall has brought a number of firsts for Maine in the Condo world. Construction has begun in South Portland’s Knightville’s neighborhood to develop the first condominium in Maine for developmentally disabled adults. A three-story, 6000 square foot commercial building is being converted into a nine-unit condominium complex including two units for live-in staff members.
This is a $1.2 million private sector pilot program project partially funded with $40,000 being provided by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services. Three families have contributed $35,000 each toward construction costs with these families receiving a $50,000 loan from South Portland. 
To date four families have bought bedrooms that range in price from $135,000 to $150,000. The complex includes shared bathrooms and common areas. The live-in staff members are on site to provide emotional support and life-skills coaching when required.
The facility will be managed by Specialized Housing Inc., a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that helps families develop and manage similar facilities. This agency first established a similar facility in Brookline, Massachusetts 25 years ago. Interestingly enough, this initial core of members still live together as a household at this complex.
Typically families have been attracted to this method of care for their members to avoid having to putting them in a group home or an apartment without any supervision. This allows the developmentally challenged adult to acquire a sense of pride and independence.
The building’s location at Knightville offers its residents easy access to nearby amenities of shopping, parks, transportation, walking trails, and restaurants.
The second bit of news in Maine is the enactment of an Act to amend the Maine Condominium Act regarding Escrow of Assessments. This Act can be found in Sec. 1.33 MRSA 1603-115-A. This Act became effective September 12, 2009.
Under this Act the association may require that a person who purchased a unit after October 1, 2009 make payments into an escrow account for that unit until it is equal to six months of assessments as established under section 1603-115.
All assessment payments must be held in an account of a bank or other financial institution under terms that place these assessment payments beyond the claim of creditors of the association. Upon request of a unit owner, the association shall disclose the name of the institution and the account number where these assessment payments are being held. An association may use a single escrow account to hold assessment payments made under this Act from all of the unit owners.
The association will pay interest on this escrow account and will return the assessment payments together with interest earned to the unit owner when the owner sells the unit and has fully paid all assessments under the Act. The association may use the balance in the account of offset any assessments remaining unpaid. The assessment payments may be used by the association to cover up to six months of the costs attributable to a unit for which assessment payments have not been made.
Speaking of ‘firsts’, many Mainer’s believe the first condo in the United States was developed on a small island just off the coast of Maine in 1890. However, this development was based on English common law that recognize real estate ownership only on land whereas the Napoleonic Code recognized unit owner rights that were not based on land thus setting the stage for today’s modern theory of condominium ownership.
The actual first condominium law passed was in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in 1958 with the first condominium being built in Utah in 1960. Though these facts probably will not win a trivia game, your remembering that the term condominium was first used in Roman times just might.