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SCARBOROUGH — Following two years of debate, the town and owners of Avenue 2, a beach access path since the 19th Century, have come to a preliminary agreement that preserves public access to Pine Point Beach.
Under the agreement, the town will relinquish its rights to the property.
Town Council Chairman William Donovan said the agreement will be voted on initially at the council’s Feb. 7 meeting, where a public hearing is also scheduled.
The matter first came to light after property owner Charles Gendron approached the town about discontinuing Avenue 2 because he needed additional land as dictated by setbacks to build a larger replacement home on his property, according to Gendron’s attorney, John Bannon.
Under the new agreement, Gendron can build up to 25 feet from the center line of the path. Bannon said his client is satisfied and appreciated the cooperation of the Pine Point Neighborhood Association in the negotiations.
According to Donovan, the pathway is owned on one side by Gendron, and on the other by Gables on the Sea Condominium Association. The town has a right-of-way easement that preserves public access, but the association sought to limit certain types of activity, and such as camping and fires, and hours of use, which irked other town residents committed to preserving public use.
Councilors and Pine Point residents objected to the proposed language at a December meeting, which led to continued negotiations.
The attorney for the condominium association, Charles Katz-Leavy, said hours of use and alcohol consumption restrictions were already addressed by town ordinance, and were taken out of the final agreement.
Susan and Don Hamill, members of the Pine Point Neighborhood Association, said Tuesday they are largely happy with the result of negotiations, but criticized the town’s inaction early in the process. The Hamills said the town relied on legal research done by Gendron’s attorney, and did not do its own, independent follow-up.
The neighborhood association retained its own attorney and asked to be a part of the negotiation process, since it was not invited by the town. “We chose to become involved to ensure the public interest was represented as well as the public’s right to walk the path,” the Hamills said in a telephone interview.
Portions of the agreement the Hamill’s fought for included keeping the landscape natural, as well as making the path 10 feet wide, instead of the original 5 feet. “We had a positive impact, but it must be said, this was never our first choice,” Susan Hamill said.
The pathway is known as a paper street, which means it exists only in town plans and is not developed or used as a road.
It has no value to the subdivision owner, and the courts have determined that the abutting property owners to such streets own the property to the middle of the pathway, Donovan said. The state Legislature has created a process for towns to either retain or extinguish their rights to the land.
Donovan said for the last two years, the town has been in the awkward position of arguing it has rights to the pathway, while those rights were largely unclear.
The Feb. 7 meeting will likely be the first of four that occur before the agreement is finalized, Donovan said. A second public hearing could be scheduled for Feb. 21.
Beachgoers walk by the Avenue 2 path that runs from King Street to Pine Point Beach in Scarborough.