Family, L.L. Bean in talks for Freeport cemetery agreement

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FREEPORT — L.L. Bean and the Mann Cemetery Association are discussing a settlement to their dispute over access to a cemetery next to the company’s Outdoor Discovery Center.

When the discovery center was built in 2014, L.L. Bean spread loam and seeded the access road to Mann Cemetery against the Mann family’s wishes. According to a statement released Monday, the cemetery association is working on a resolution with the outdoor outfitter.

“L.L. Bean Co. has given the Mann Cemetery Association and the Mann family their word that this matter will be worked out and has said that our latest proposal for a settlement is reasonable,” John Mann, president of the association, said in a press release.

Mann added that the cemetery association has “no further comment at this time.”

Both the discovery center and the cemetery, which is about 300 years old and has almost 170 plots, are on Marietta Lane off Lower Flying Point Road.

L.L. Bean’s lawyer, Martin Eisenstein, of Lewiston-based Brann & Isaacson, also said he couldn’t comment on the issue because the settlement with the Mann Cemetery Association hasn’t been finalized. He said it’s been discussed, but nothing has been documented.

Eisenstein also wouldn’t say whether the settlement will be financial or require that an access road be constructed. Members of the Mann Cemetery Association also wouldn’t disclose details of their proposal.

Ken Mann last week said the cemetery association has asked L.L. Bean to build a new access road that would go from a different point on Marietta Road to the cemetery. Eisenstein on Monday said he couldn’t confirm whether the new road has been discussed.

The cemetery is where many members of the Mann family and other early Freeport residents are buried; the last burial took place in 1922. Members of the Mann family still live in Freeport, and were promised continued access to the cemetery when the discovery center was built.

The Manns access the 1/2-acre cemetery through an easement across a property on the other side of the cemetery. According to Eisenstein, the adjacent property is owned by the Ulrickson family and L.L. Bean negotiated the easement in 2014.

Plans for the Outdoor Discovery Center were approved by the Project Review Board in September 2013, with the condition that “the final plan will show the traditional access to the Mann Cemetery.”

L.L. Bean went back to the Project Review Board on July 13, after Code Enforcement Officer Fred Reeder in May said clarification was needed about  whether the company was allowed to plant grass over the road. The board has scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 13 to discuss whether the company was allowed to plant over the access road.

Town Planner Donna Larson gave a memo to the board with two options, both of which would allow action by L.L. Bean.

Under one option, the board would clarify its motion from September 2013, and say that the condition of “show(ing) traditional access” only meant showing it on a map for historical purposes and not actually retaining it.

The second option is for the board to approve a site plan amendment and remove the condition that requires traditional access to be shown.

Larson last week said either option would please L.L. Bean, but the Project Review Board is allowed to take any action it sees fit, so it’s possible the access road could be restored.

On Monday, L.L. Bean went before the Board of Appeals to try to have the code enforcement officer’s demand overturned. No decision was made, though, because L.L. Bean asked the board to table its appeal until after the Sept. 13 public hearing so the company can hear the Project Review Board’s decision.

The decision to table the issue was made in the introduction of the appeal, and board members immediately approved it, so no discussion was allowed. Around two dozen people were present at the meeting, including members of the Mann Cemetery Association.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Freeport resident Ken Mann maintains Mann Cemetery off Marietta Road, where many of his ancestors are buried. Access has been restricted due to the location of the L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Center, but the Mann Cemetery Association said it’s discussing a settlement with the company.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.
  • Joyce Clarkson-Veilleux

    The solution is so easy to see, it does not take a rocket scientist, Bean’s needs to put in a new access road down the side property line. They should have done this three years ago when they started planning the new building. Instead they decided to act like corporate bullies and denied the Cemetery Association and the public access to an ancient cemetery. Really, we know you are a big corporation and have lots of power and money, put to cut off access to a cemetery. This has got to be one of the lowest acts LL Bean’s has committed.

    • 101indianscout

      Joyce, the Mann family gave up all their rights when they sold the property way back when. At that time they should have retained rights to the graveyard, but they didn’t. Now, after Bean buys the property from Mann’s former relative (who explicitly did not allow him access during her ownership) it’s their problem? Maybe you should do some research before you speak?

      • EABeem

        And I find it odd that news reports never mention that LLBean gave the cemetery to the family, gave the family an access road so they don’t have to drive through the paddling center and paid to have the whole area surveyed for additional graves.

        • Jimmy_John67

          So says the husband of the LL Bean spokesperson. I didn’t realize the Forecaster was in the business of having their employees publicly assist the LL Bean PR Department.

          • EABeem

            What seems to get lost in the story of this cemetery is, as 101indianscout points out, the family had no access to it before Bean purchased it. It should also be known that Bean GAVE the cemetery to the family, Bean GAVE them a new access road that did not require driving through the paddling center, and Bean even paid to have the surrounding area survey for other graves. L.L. Bean has tried to do the right thing. It has not limited access to this burial ground, it has provided it. The problem lies elsewhere, as many people in Freeport understand.

          • Jen Laskey VerPlanck

            Just curious if your wife is an LL Bean spokesperson?
            It seems like there are a few conflicting sides here,and I can’t understand why this issue has even gotten this far if either is true.It appears that some people are questioning the character of Mr. Mann and citing that as being the underlying reason for the problem on the one hand and the defaulting of LL Bean to adhere to the historical right of way to the family cemetery,as noted on the original site plan, on the other.
            Surely their are laws that apply to family members who wish to visit or maintain family cemeteries and I don’t see how whether Mr. Mann had used the rights before as a valid point, if he is the one person that is interested in maintaining the cemetery now. Perhaps the previous family took care of that before? And if LL Bean has granted Mr.Mann an alternate route,it still does not erase the site plan obligation to keep the old access open.As I read the article, Mr.Mann says it’s difficult to use the new access and is more trouble to get to it to maintain it or for other family members to find their way across private land,through a gate,etc. Further, why would LL Bean want an old cemetery? So their “giving ” it to the association seems a bit par for the course. I do think LL Bean has done alot for the Town of Freeport and for many community causes,but this issue looks like they just never intended to keep access through the original historic ROW and now they are trying to taint the character of the one person who really cares about it the most, in order to get their way about a small piece of lawn. Maybe I’m wrong,and time will tell.

          • EABeem

            Yes. Time will tell.

      • Pinetree North

        Bean’s agreed to keep the access road as part of their building permit agreement with the planning board. They need to honor their agreements, and the contract with the town.

        • 101indianscout

          No they agreed to show the road on a plan, and it was followed up by the chair informing the Mann family that the board has no authority on granting access

          • Jen Laskey VerPlanck

            Well,they don’t even show the road anymore either.It sounds like legalese,like what the deifinition of ” is” is, or as we in Maine say,B.S.

          • 101indianscout

            So you never looked at the plan at town hall where it exists. Again, you know nothing about what you’re speaking to.

          • Jen Laskey VerPlanck

            So, what exactly is your interest in this issue? Why do you think you are the only one who knows anything?

          • 101indianscout

            Well, for one I know your interest in the issue, it self interest. As a realtor I pay great attention to the details, which apparently in your greed, yes you are greedy, continue to ignor facts. The Mann family once owned the property, sold it without retaining ANY rights, and now someone else’s problem. You are the definition of pathetic.

          • Amal Thaon

            Any fahmboy knows that 99% of what passes for BS is, in fact, cow flap. That land got so contentious back in the 17th century that my family moved back to Cape Anne! Perhaps open warfare can be avoided by building a helipad — or an underground speaking tube from each burial plot to the nearest public access — or perhaps planting everlasting on the graves so that they don’t have to be tended, waking up the dead just to ‘remember’ them. Just trying to be helpful …. Does anybody remember the name of L.L.’s private pond where he used to have personal guests? It was something like Frog Pond or Snake Pond or something not memorable, obviously.