A commercial landlord with a checkered environmental record has had to shell out more than $650,000 for clean water violations in the fragile Long Creek watershed on properties he owns near the Maine Mall in South Portland.

On Monday, Attorney General Aaron Frey announced that Cornerbrook LLC and CPSP LLC, both owned by Portland real estate mogul Joseph Soley, had paid $400,000 in back fees to the Long Creek Watershed Management District a few months ago and $250,000 in civil fines to the state of Maine last week.

“Environmental regulations like the ones in the present case ensure communities have safe, clean water and our natural resources are preserved,” Frey said in a written statement. “When violators flout the law, refusing to pay fees and fines, we must take action to protect residents, waterways and wildlife.”

Soley’s lawyer, Edward MacColl of Portland, said his client has long held that the watershed district fees are unconstitutional but that he reluctantly agreed to pay them. Soley missed the last payment deadline – which resulted in much higher penalties – because of a death in the family, MacColl said.

“Those arrogant (expletive) gloating about an old man who missed a deadline while burying a son,” MacColl said Monday in response to Frey’s news release announcing the fees and fines. “Have they no shame? He’d agreed to pay. Was that not enough? Those bureaucratic (expletive).”

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Maine Attorney General noted that Soley’s first missed deadline was in September, a full two months before his son’s November death. Still, the state agreed to reduce the penalty due to the tragedy, the spokeswoman said.


District landowners with more than an acre of paved surface must get a permit to discharge stormwater into Long Creek or sign on to a general discharge permit from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. General permittees must pay fees to the district to improve the creek’s water quality.

Intense development along Long Creek and its tributaries – which flow into Clarks Pond, the Fore River, and then Casco Bay – has increased stormwater runoff, which pollutes the stream, erodes the streambed and increases water temperatures. As a result, the stream no longer meets state water quality standards.

Under pressure from federal authorities, the state launched a restoration project in 2007 to bring Long Creek water quality up to state standards. The four watershed towns – South Portland, Portland, Westbrook and Scarborough – joined area businesses, nonprofits, and state agencies to form the Long Creek Watershed Management Plan.

Soley’s fees and penalties originated in 2018. The DEP notified him that his companies had fallen out of compliance by discharging into the creek without his own permit or signing onto the general one managed by the Long Creek Watershed Management District.

He’d originally agreed to comply with the terms of the general permit but had not paid any district fees.

Soley argues that the stormwater runoff coming off his property is not degrading the quality of the stream water any more than people who own less than an acre of paved land or more than the state of Maine, which owns Interstate 295, which Soley claims is the biggest polluter of the watershed, MacColl said.


However, according to watershed district officials, the Maine Department of Transportation pays the same yearly $3,000 per paved acre general permit fee that Soley must pay, as do other state or local government agencies like the Maine Turnpike Authority and the city of South Portland.

“The landowners are collectively viewed as contributing to the degraded water quality, rather than any one owner or another being individually the cause,” said Peter Carney, executive director of the Long Creek Watershed Management District.


In 2023, the court ordered Soley to pay overdue fees and penalties. MacColl said Soley agreed to pay the fees, having lost his will to continue fighting their constitutionality, but said Soley wanted credit for use of a South Portland catch basin on the site to reduce how much he owed.

His companies’ failure to promptly comply with the court’s ruling triggered additional penalties.

“When neighbors in the Long Creek Watershed believe they are not subject to the same regulations, it is unfair to the nearby companies and property owners that contribute to the watershed’s protection,” DEP Commissioner Melanie Loyzim said.

It is not the first time that Soley has failed to comply with a Long Creek permit. Unregulated discharges in violation of an earlier version of the permit prompted another court action in 2012 that resulted in judgments against both of Soley’s companies, Frey’s office said.

Soley is a well-known landlord in Portland who owns buildings in the Old Port and the downtown. He has had numerous run-ins with city officials and tenants about safety code violations at his properties.


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