Freeport cemetery access dispute pits family against L.L. Bean

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FREEPORT — L.L. Bean may be allowed to continue restricting access to a cemetery behind its Outdoor Discovery Center, against the wishes of relatives of those who are buried there.

The Project Review Board has scheduled a public hearing Sept. 13 to discuss whether L.L. Bean was allowed to plant over the cemetery access road when the company built the Outdoor Discovery Center two years ago.

Mann Cemetery, which has almost 170 plots, and the discovery center are on Marietta Lane off Lower Flying Point Road.

The cemetery, which is about 300 years old, is where many members of the Mann family and other early Freeport residents are buried. The last burial was 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.

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.”

But when constructing the center, L.L. Bean loamed and seeded part of the access road to the cemetery. L.L. Bean spokesman Mac McKeever said the company did what was approved by the Project Review Board.

“We did loam and seed the road as directed by the originally approved site plan,” McKeever said. “It should also be noted that we worked with the abutting landowners to provide deeded access to the Mann Cemetery to ensure there is ample access to the cemetery.”

The road is still visible at the edge of the L.L. Bean property, and is accessible by foot, but vehicular traffic would require driving across the discovery center lawn.

Ken Mann, one of the few Manns still living in Freeport, helps maintain the  half-acre cemetery where many of his ancestors are buried. He said Tuesday that the situation has been upsetting to his family.

“We were quite surprised because (L.L. Bean) had promised us the road would remain, and that vehicular traffic would remain the same,” Mann said. “We were quite shocked when they graded and seeded the road and told people to stay off it.”

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. Town Manager Peter Joseph asked Reeder to investigate after a resident voiced concerns.

After a site walk at the discovery center and cemetery on July 13, the board discussed the issue and decided to hold the public hearing in September. Town Planner Donna Larson gave a memo to the board with two possible options, both of which would allow the 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 on Tuesday said either option would please L.L. Bean, but the Project Review Board is allowed to do what it wants, so it’s possible the access road could be restored.

As a result, L.L. Bean is scheduled to go before the Board of Appeals Monday, Aug. 1, to try to have the code enforcement officer’s demand overturned.

Larson said L.L. Bean plans to ask the BOA to table its appeal until after the Sept. 13 public hearing, however, so the company can hear the Project Review Board’s decision.

Once the Project Review Board rules, either L.L. Bean or the Mann Cemetery Association could take the issue to court, Larson said. The cemetery association in early July hired James Katsiaficas of Portland-based Perkins Thompson in case the association decides to pursue legal action.

Another option Ken Mann said he hopes L.L. Bean will consider is constructing a new access road. Mann has marked off a path that leads to a different point on Marietta Lane where a road could be built if some trees are cleared. Mann said the cemetery association has asked L.L. Bean if it would pay for a new road and “they didn’t say no,” but also didn’t agree.

Mann said he hopes a solution can be found that will make both parties happy.

“We’re trying to work with L.L. Bean to find an agreement that works for everyone,” Mann said. “We don’t want to interfere with their business, but we still want access to our cemetery.”

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. But access has been restricted by the abutting L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Center.

Almost 170 people are buried at Mann Cemetery, and in September the Freeport Project Review Board will determine whether L.L. Bean was allowed to restrict access to it when the company built its Outdoor Discovery Center two years ago.

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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.
  • Katahdin

    Beans does whatever they want. The Manns are lucky Beans didn’t bulldoze the entire cemetery.

  • Cathleen Walls

    People should be allowed adequate access to grave sites…LL Beans should have planned better and have a little respect for the dead, as well as the living to whom these graves have meaning.

    • 101indianscout

      Or perhaps the Mann family should have planned better before they sold the property years back, knowing their relatives were buried there? Why did they not retain ownership to that piece of their history, and give themselves access at that time?

  • Steve_Portland

    I’m disappointed in LL Bean. They should just restore the road. Beans has outgrown their heritage – or chosen to walk away from it. Would LL have done that to his neighbors? For some reason I don’t think so.

  • mooncusser99

    Aside from the personal value to the families, these cemeteries are OUR history. The gravestones, many in disrepair, are treasures. I’m surprised at LL Bean since a couple of family members are involved with the Yarmouth Historical Society. They surely know the value of access to this cemetery.

  • Chris Smith

    Does anyone else see the irony of the photo showing Ken Mann clearly working in the cemetery to which he claims to not have access? He seems perfectly able to access it whenever newspaper or television cameras are present. Maybe that’s because there’s another road leading directly to it that it not on L.L.Bean property.

    • Mayflower

      When I brought my children up from Maryland this spring and tried to visit the cemetery with my elderly grandmother so she could show the next generation the graves of their ancestors, it was literally impossible to maneuver her wheelchair across hundreds of yards of rough ground. :'( LL Bean knew about the cemetery when it purchased the property, and there is no reason a company that large and powerful cannot afford to maintain an access road so that those who aren’t as strong as Ken can honor their ancestors.

      • 101indianscout

        So your relatives failed to let you know about the Ulrickson access?

    • Nancy Chabot

      Chris, he had this carry the wheelbarrow to get to the cemetery. Do see any vehicles?. I don’t

      • Chris Smith

        You don’t actually have to carry a wheelbarrow, Nancy, it has a wheel. If you’ve ever carried a wheelbarrow, you’re doing it wrong.

        • 101indianscout

          Chris, you can’t educate the numb but a good try. Ken Mann is best known in town for being a council chair who quit when he didn’t get his way in firing our former town manager. Him along with two others. A very childish person.

  • Katahdin

    Shame on the town officials who feel cowering under their desks submissively is the proper way for a human with a soul to behave. Email for the planner involved: dlarson@freeportmaine.com She has requested no one email her about this, because it would be a bother to her!

  • Jen Laskey VerPlanck

    I guess their famous guarantee doesn’t extend to the ancestors of the founding families of Freeport! It’s curious why L.L. Bean would choose to essentially bully the descendants of these families, by refusing to honor their agreement ( and to follow the Freeport Codes and planning rules)that was established to keep access to the historical burying place of their forefathers,and that access by car in order to maintain the site.The descendants of all of the nearly 170 ancestors buried there must be in the tens of thousands since it’s been there for nearly 300 years. I am one of the ancestors. L.L.Bean and the Town of Freeport need to make this right.

  • cowcharge

    Ever since Leon gave up the reins the company has just been another corporation run by hired guns.

  • truther

    So is there road access or not? The LL Bean spokesperson said: “It should also be noted that we worked with the abutting landowners to provide deeded access to the Mann Cemetery to ensure there is ample access to the cemetery.” If that means LL Bean removed the access over its property, but replaced that with equivalent access from another route, then what’s the big deal? And if that’s not the case, then why aren’t they being called out for their misstatement?

  • 101indianscout

    Why is Bean the problem? Shouldn’t this have been settled years ago as Bean hasn’t owned the property that long? The prior owner of over 30 years was his relative who never allowed him access so why should they? The reporter never asked if he had legal access to the site and he does, he can get there by auto, so why is he picking on Bean?

  • Nyle Clark

    I think maybe we are getting a little off track here…..the issue is not whether Ken Mann is a good guy or not…..or if we know how to properly use a wheelbarrow….the issue is that promises were made and broken by LL Bean to keep the access road available. No need to point fingers or be nasty to those making comments here. Did LL Bean say that they would keep the access road available during the planning stages and had that happened….the answer is …yes…..and no….Now the planning board need to do the right thing and not buckle under to corporate pressure….Honestly ….who is really going to be hurt by putting back what has been available for all these years so the family’s can pay respects and care for past relatives….LL Bean will survive….I’m sure. Remember….it’s just a road……a small access road….

    • 101indianscout

      Nyle, a broken promise? Bean never said the road would be available for access (transcripts are available), many of us where there at the process. You Sir know nothing about what you speak to.