Council tells Cape Elizabeth homeowner hands off Greenbelt land; parking restricted near Casino Beach

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A homeowner in the Leighton Farm subdivision with land adjacent to town-owned conservation property will have to stop making improvements to the town land and remove part of a stone wall built in 2004.

The Town Council voted 7-0 Monday to deny Philip O’Hearn’s request to leave the stone wall as is and to let him maintain a portion of the municipal property leading to a Greenbelt trail head that runs behind the Leighton subdivision.

Councilors also approved new parking rules for the Casino Beach neighborhood.

The land near the Leighton subdivision was deeded to the town in 2003 by Wyley Enterprises with the stipulation that it be used for passive recreation, with no construction of buildings, utilities, or other improvements except for boardwalks, steps and signs approved for the Greenbelt system.

O’Hearn, of 8 Leighton Farm Road, told councilors his situation was unique. He said his installation of a lawn was part of the building package from the developer because his setback is 10 feet less than others in the neighborhood.

Whether the mistake to the property line was made by the builder, the developer, O’Hearn or the Town, Council Chairman Jim Rowe said making an allowance for special circumstances could open the door to more requests in the future.

“We have to draw the line somewhere,” he said.

Town Manager Mike McGovern said he relied on recommendations from Town Attorney Thomas Leahey and the Conservation Commission to deny O’Hearn’s requests.

McGovern said changing the deed would be a “slippery slope,” and a long-term strategic mistake.

According to a letter from Leahey dated Aug. 20, the warranty deed states that the uses for the town-owned land are for the benefit of all the lot owners and that the natural tree and shrub growth should be preserved in its existing condition, but the O’Hearns have been mowing it to look like an extension of their lawn.

“It would clearly be bad precedent to allow encroachments onto the Town’s property, accepted with conservation/greenbelt type restrictions, on a case by case basis,” Leahey said in the letter.

The Conservation Commission also voted 5-0 to recommend that the boundary separating the town-owned open space from the O’Hearn property be clearly marked, and the developed area be restored to its natural state.

Councilor Sara Lennon said she had trouble finding the trail and felt she was trespassing on someones property because it looked like a well-manicured lawn.

“Some sort of compromise is necessary,” she said. “People need to officially recognize it is town land.”

McGovern said while the town will retain total control of the property, he will work with the neighborhood and the Conservation Commission to create short- and long-term plans to meet the needs of all parties.

Casino Beach

In other business, councilors approved changes to the Traffic Ordinance regarding parking on Surf Road, Cottage Drive, Maiden Cove Lane, Garden Circle and Garden Lane near Casino Beach.

Residents have complained about parked cars clogging the narrow streets, preventing access by fire and rescue vehicles and limiting visibility.

The ordinance now allows only resident parking along Maiden Cove Lane, Garden Circle and Garden Lane. The changes also restrict parking on either side of Surf Road
traveling north from 60 feet northerly of Keyes Lane to the end of Surf
Road at Garden Circle, and on the northern side of Cottage Lane from
Maiden Cove lane to Garden Circle.

For those with boat trailers or cargo vans, the ordinance allows overnight parking for bigger vehicles on any public road for not more than one night each year and permits trailers to be parked overnight for no more than four consecutive days or eight days in any calendar year on any public road.

Chief Neil Williams said the changes are the first step to parking improvments for these residents. Improvements to the Surf Road area will follow, he said, but they will progress slowly and tackle one issue at a time.

In a caucus after Monday night’s meeting, Councilor Anne Swift-Kayata was nominated for chairwoman and Councilor Sara Lennon was nominated as chairwoman of the Finance Committee, a committee of the whole council.

Their appointments will be ratified at the next council meeting on Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Council Chambers.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or