Town: Landowners cancel Harpswell beach access talks
HARPSWELL — Negotiations to allow public access at Robinhood Beach stalled this week.
The group advocating for access to what is also known as Cedar Beach said it may consider legal action against property owners who have kept the beach private.
Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Elinor Multer said an executive session scheduled for Tuesday with Jonathan and Rachel Aspatore, the owners of a parcel of land connecting Cedar Beach Road to the beach, was cancelled by the couple that morning.
"They called it off," Multer said on Wednesday.
The Aspatores cancelled because of two disagreements, Multer said.
"One is the control of parking on Robinhood Road," a road perpendicular to Cedar Beach Road, she said. "The other concern has to do with the determination of who is eligible for access to the beach."
Multer said she couldn't elaborate about the cancelled meeting, or the negotiations between the board and the Aspatores.
The cancelled executive session was previously scheduled for June 21, but was postponed to Tuesday due to timing issues, Town Administrator Kristi Eiane.
She said the board was expected to meet in executive session on Thursday to discuss the beach access issue with a town attorney.
Judy Metcalf of Eaton Peabody, the Aspatores' attorney, did not respond to a request for comment. She has not responded to previous requests, either.
Michael Helfgott, president of Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters, called the meeting's cancellation a "disappointment."
He said the group may consider legal action now.
"We're very disappointed, but not surprised," he said. "We had unfortunately just confirmed what we have suspected or known for quite some time, which is that the Aspatores are not serious about owning up to their responsibility of letting the people of Harpswell cross the easement area."
Before the group reached a tentative agreement to buy an easement on the private part of Cedar Beach Road, owned by Charles and Sally Abrahamson, the Aspatores had shown a willingness to reach an eventual compromise, Helfgott said.
But after CB/CIS reached a deal with the Abrahamsons that included five agreeable terms of beach use, Helfgott said the Aspatores created "a list of 20 very onerous conditions."
"We sensed a definite turnaround from their stated willingness," Helfgott said.
The conditions included requiring an armed guard, limiting nearby parking to five cars, and allowing any landowner with a deeded right to Cedar Beach Road the ability to revoke beach access within 10 days of an agreement being reached.
"That really relegates Cedar Beach to a privileged few," Helfgott said. "... From where we stand, we now need to seriously consider other actions and we'll be doing that within the next few days."
The group has maintained that an easement exists on Lot 164, the parcel of land owned by the Aspatores. The claim is supported by a quitclaim deed to the Aspatores for the parcel, which states that a public easement exists for residents of Harpswell.
Helfgott previously said that a tentative agreement with the Abrahamsons was contingent on the town reaching an agreement with the Aspatores.
The deadline for reaching an accord with the Aspatores has since passed, he said, but the group is still in discussions with the Abrahamsons.
"They've really been trying to side with the people of Harpswell," he said.