SCARBOROUGH — Pine Point residents want guaranteed beach access at Avenue 2, but some fear the town is giving away the land.
The council met for a workshop Wednesday to discuss an order of discontinuance of a beach path that runs along Avenue 2 from King Street to Pine Point Beach, between the properties of Charles P. Gendron and The Gables by the Sea Condominium Association. The beach path has historically been used as a public right of way, but it is uncertain who actually owns the land.
The order of discontinuance was drawn up by Town Attorney Durward Parkinson and received by the town April 28.
Work on the order has been ongoing since a Feb. 1 workshop, when town councilors directed Town Manager Thomas Hall to negotiate with property owners in an effort to preserve public access to Pine Point beach.
Since the discontinuance order was received by the town and made public Friday, some residents have banded together to speak out against the discontinuance. Four even went as far as hiring attorney Ben Leoni to see if they can get a seat at the negotiation table.
Gendron, who was not at Wednesday’s workshop, has told the town he wants Scarborough to dissolve whatever ownership rights it may have so he can expand his property to fix his house or build a new one. In return he would grant the town an easement that would guarantee the town perpetual access to the beach. The easement would stay with the property, ensuring the future of public access.
Gendron is also proposing to improve and maintain the property, and has provided the city with a landscaping plan.
At the crux of the issue is if the town doesn’t grant the discontinuance, Gendron could sue the town for property rights and win, in which case the town could lose public access to the path. The town could also rack up legal bills fighting a potential lawsuit.
If the town’s right to access is dissolved, the land would be split between the two abutters – Gendron and the condominium association. Each would receive 25 feet.
Parkinson called discontinuance a preferable option at Wednesday’s workshop because, in return, the town would get two public easements – one from Gendron one from the condo association.
“I don’t want anyone to leave this meeting thinking the town is giving something away,” Parkinson said. “The town is getting access to the beach.”
Parkinson said a lot of thought has been put into the agreement, explaining the paperwork would split the 50-foot right of way down the middle between the two abutters. It would be a structure-free area where neither party could build on the land.
Hall said the move would have positive tax implications for the town.
Discussion from the workshop spilled over to the Town Council meeting for almost an hour.
Residents were split on the matter, but more spoke out against the discontinuance.
Pine Point resident Dory Hoy said she was in favor of the proposal, however.
“I do not want to see the town use tax dollars for a lawsuit,” Hoy said. “Mr. Gendron is being more than fair granting the public beach access.”
Pine Point resident Mo Erickson criticized the town for not listening to residents, saying the new mantra for Scarborough should be, “It’s a done deal.”
“Please do not give this piece of land away. We want it for our own town,” Erickson said.
Resident Susan Hamill said, “It was a shock to see all these documents all ready to be signed.
“It looks like we gave away everything.”
During the meeting, Councilor Katherine St. Clair was met with a round of applause when she questioned why the town would give away the property rights.
Councilor Katy Foley said she would not support the documents as proposed.
“I don’t ever think it is a good idea for a town to give up its rights unless they get something equal or better,” Foley said.
Councilor Chris Caiazzo said the town is doing everything it can to maintain the beach access.
“If our desired outcome is making it accessible forever, this would allow it,” Caiazzo said.
Councilor William Donovan said the agreement would save the town money and “give us public access.”
The council will take up the matter again June 17 during a workshop the public may attend, but public comment will not be accepted.
If the council decides to move forward on the matter, a public hearing will be scheduled. A single binding vote by the council can take place no earlier than 10 days after the public hearing.
The beach path that runs along Avenue 2 from King Street to Pine Point Beach, between properties owned by Charles P. Gendron, left, and The Gables by the Sea. The beach path has historically been used as a public right of way, but it is uncertain who actually owns the land.
Scarborough resident Rhonda DiPhilippo, left, and her daughter, 19, walk along Pine Pine Beach on Wednesday by a beach path that runs along Avenue 2 from King Street to Pine Point Beach, between properties owned by Charles P. Gendron and The Gables by the Sea Condominiums. The beach path has historically been used as a public right of way, but it is uncertain who owns the land.