Harpswell could vote again on Cedar Beach access

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HARPSWELL — The Board of Selectmen was expected Thursday to consider approving a warrant article for the March 15 Town Meeting that could help restore access to Cedar Beach.

The language of the article was not available Thursday morning, but it could involve the town accepting an easement on a parcel of land that connects Cedar Beach Road to Cedar Beach.

The easement would not cost the town any money.

The easement agreement was reached in a court-ordered mediation session on Feb. 3 between Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters and Jonathan and Rachel Aspatore, who own the land. In exchange, beach-goers would have to abide by terms and conditions for use of the beach.

The mediation session was a part of of a lawsuit CB/CIS filed last August in Cumberland County Superior Court against the Aspatores. The suit sought a court order declaring that an easement exists on the land.

The Board of Selectmen met with representatives of CB/CIS and the Aspatores in an executive session on Feb. 20 to discuss the terms and conditions of accepting the easement, but did not make any decisions.

“The discussions with the three parties, including the Aspatores, will continue and our attorneys are involved,” Board Chairwoman Elinor Multer said, “and we are looking hard to find a resolution of this question that satisfies all parties.”

Attorney Martin Eisenstein of Lewiston-based Brann & Isaacson, who represents CB/CIS, said his group will bring back revisions to the easement terms and conditions based on recommendations by the board.

He then urged the board to act on the matter quickly before time runs out to add the warrant article for the March 15 Town Meeting. Under state law, the article would have to be added at least seven days before the meeting.

“At the end of the day, we need a vote from the town citizens,” Eisenstein said. “They have been anxious to get a vote on this issue. “

The attorney also revealed that Joan Lester, an abutting property owner on Cedar Beach Road, will allow access to her portion of Cedar Beach and Cedar Island if the easement is accepted.

The terms and conditions, which were released by CB/CIS on Feb. 21, would establish visual boundaries to prevent beach-goers from trespassing on other parts of the Aspatores’ property. It also limits use of the easement to town residents, non-resident taxpayers, and their guests, and asks the town to hire someone to monitor the easement from July 1 through Labor Day.

While the town can determine the hours for the monitor, the person must visit the area daily and be on call, including nights. CB/CIS estimates this will cost the town less than $2,500 per year.

Other terms and conditions include:

• Maintaining parking on Robinhood Road, which runs perpendicular to Cedar Beach Road.

• Keeping the beach open only during the daytime.

• Prohibiting pets, storage, fires, fireworks, vehicles and littering on the easement.

• Prohibiting improvements to the easement, including structures, steps, wharfs, docks, floats, and boat landings.

• Prohibiting the town from advertising the beach.

• And limiting the liability of the Aspatores and the town from any injuries that happen on the easement.

The final term would allow the Aspatores to be awarded $10,000 in liquidated damages if the town repeatedly fails to enforce the terms and conditions of the easement. However, according to the agreement, “under no circumstances can the easement be revoked, and the damages remedy is available only in very limited and special circumstances.”

A lawsuit CB/CIS filed in October 2012 in Cumberland County Superior Court against Charles and Sally Abrahamson, who own the portion of Cedar Beach Road that leads to Cedar Beach, is still pending. The suit seeks a court order declaring there is a prescriptive easement on the road.

The March 15 Town Meeting begins at 10 a.m. at the Harpswell Community School, 308 Harpswell Islands Road.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.