Harpswell road owner asks appeals court to overturn Cedar Beach access decision

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HARPSWELL — Defendants in a court case that allowed public use of a private Bailey Island beach access road are appealing the Superior Court decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Gables LLC, a real estate company owned by road owner Betsy Atkins, filed the appeal in Portland on Dec. 15.

It seeks to overturn Justice Nancy Mills 73-page ruling that a public access easement exists on Cedar Beach Road, a 1,008-foot way owned by Atkins that has been used by generations of residents to get to Cedar Beach. 

The beach and road have been the subjects of a legal battle that has been going on since former owners began limiting public access three years ago. A three-day trial was held in Portland in May; Mills’ issued her ruling Sept. 15.

The original defendants in the 2012 lawsuit were Charles and Sally Abrahamson; Atkins intervened in the case almost six months after it was filed. She purchased the road from the Abrahamsons in July. 

Christian Chandler, an attorney from the Curtis Thaxter firm representing Atkins, this week said Mills made several “legal and factual errors” in her decision and the ruling should be overturned entirely. 

Mills sided with the plaintiffs, the nonprofit Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters, finding that while attempts were made to keep people off the road, it was not specifically posted against creating a public easement in the early 1960s, allowing the 20-year window for an easement to develop.

Members of CB/CIS are confident that Mill’s ruling is comprehensive enough that it will be withstand the appeal. 

“I think the reason for our confidence is because of all the work the judge put into her decision,” CB/CIS President Mike Helfgott said. 

“I would never say never, because obviously you never know what a group of humans is going to decide,” he said, referencing the high court’s possible decision, “but we feel very confident.”

In a statement sent to CB/CIS members Dec. 18, board member Marty Eisenstein said the parties will file briefs in the case before oral arguments are held, possibly next spring. 

CB/CIS is also awaiting the final wording of a proposed Town Meeting warrant article that would authorize the town to  repay the group $110,000 for its legal costs. 

Selectmen discussed the request last week with the town’s attorney. Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said she expects another meeting with the attorney before the board takes action, possibly early next month.

Peter L. McGuire can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or pmcguire@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire.

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A signs celebrates the September court decision allowing public access to Cedar Beach on Bailey Island. The ruling is now being challenged.

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