Residents, town manager reach compromise over Cape Elizabeth land dispute

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CAPE ELIZABETH — A dispute over town-owned property adjacent to a private home in the Leighton Farms subdivision may have been resolved at a Jan. 7 meeting between residents and the town manager.

Ten residents of the Leighton Farm Road and Steeplebush neighborhoods met with Town Manager Michael McGovern to discuss solutions to problems that had surfaced over town land maintenance, trail upkeep, open space and landowner property lines.

On Nov. 9, 2009, homeowner Philip O’Hearn of 8 Leighton Farm Road requested permission from the Town Council to maintain the town-owned land adjacent to his home and to keep a stone wall that was built on the town-owned right of way.

Neighbors Brain Rayback of 5 Leighton Road, Jean Bishop of 10 Leighton Farms Road, David Herzer of 7 Leighton Farms Road and Aaron Mosher of 6 Leighton Farms Road spoke in support of O’Hearn. The neighbors said they wanted the Greenbelt trails behind the subdivision to be clearly marked, cleared from overgrowth and easy to find.

The council denied O’Hearn’s request, but councilors and McGovern agreed to work with the neighbors to resolve the issue.

O’Hearn did not attend last week’s meeting, but neighbors who did expressed an interest in maintaining access to the Greenbelt Trails behind their houses, while maintaining the character of their community. The warranty deed states the uses for the town-owned land should benefit all lot owners and that natural tree and shrub growth should be preserved in its natural condition.

“We want to work with the neighbors and the O’Hearns,” McGovern said.

As a solution, McGovern suggested installing stone dust path from the town-owned property off Leighton Farms Road through the Greenbelt trail to Steeplebush Road in Cross Hill neighborhood. He said the trail sign posts will be clear of obstructions, and be visible for those who would like to use the trail.

McGovern estimated the cost of the path will be less than $4,000 and will come from the town’s sewer line maintenance fund, since the path was originally created for a sewer line and is part of the sewer service in the region.

In addition, neighbors expressed an interest in keeping the trail free of ticks and clear of invasive species, such as honeysuckle and bittersweet. They said they will volunteer their time to cut back weeds and maintain the trails with the approval of the Conservation Commission and the Town Planner.

McGovern said he will take the suggestions to the Town Council.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or