Time running out to reopen Harpswell beach access, advocate says

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HARPSWELL — The renewed fight to open access to Robinhood Beach, sometimes referred to as Cedar Beach, may be in jeopardy if negotiations with local property owners aren’t resolved soon.

That’s according to Michael Helfgott, president of Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters, a group that renewed the fight for beach access in January after a past attempt failed in 2011.

Access to the Bailey Island beach has been closed since then.

Helfgott on Tuesday said negotiations between CB/CIS and Charles and Sally Abrahamson, who own the private part of Cedar Beach Road that leads to the beach, has resulted in tentative agreement to open the currently closed road.

The tentative agreement would see the Abrahamsons receiving a currently undisclosed settlement for opening their private road to beachgoers.

But the agreement is contingent on another agreement being reached with neighbors Jonathan and Rachel Aspatore, Helfgott said.

The Aspatores own the parcel of land that leads to Robinhood Beach, he said, and the deadline for reaching an accord with them is coming soon.

“There is a time-is-of-the-essence issue because our arrangement about the road is one that could run out fairly soon,” Helfgott said. “I don’t know how to put a limit on it, but we’re concerned that we need to have some sort of resolution before the end of June. … We are in a very fragile position right now; we have the road but only perhaps for a little.”

CB/CIS has been negotiating with the Aspatores over terms of use for Robinhood Beach if the neighbors were to open access to the beach through their property, Helfgott said.

However, Helfgott said, most of the Aspatores’ stipulations for beach access are far too restrictive for the two parties to reach an agreement right now.

“This is not the way you set up a friendly place to have fun,” Helfgott said. “… We’re not inclined to meet them where they want us to meet them.”

Helfgott said CB/CIS believes there is a public easement on the Aspatores’ parcel of land that connects Robinhood Beach to Cedar Beach Road, according to a purchase-and-sale agreement with a former property owner who sold the parcel to the Aspatores.

CB/CIS has been attempting to negotiate terms with the Aspatores, Helfgott said, but the group may consider legal action if negotiating continues to be unsuccessful.

“Should the terms not be reasonable we don’t see having any choice but to fight it,” he said.

The CB/CIS group was expected to meet with the Board of Selectmen at its Thursday meeting in executive session, but Town Administrator Kristi Eiane said it was unclear whether the board was going to make any public action or comment.

“There may be some folks who come for public comment,” Eiane said on Wednesday. “I’m not sure how anything is going to go beyond the executive session.”

At this year’s March Town Meeting, the town approved issues up to $220,000 in bonds for the purpose of securing public access to the beach, but the issuing of the bonds is contingent on successful settlements with all property owners who would be affected by the public reopening of Robinhood Beach.

Helfgott said some or all of that money would go towards paying for an easement settlement on the private part of Cedar Beach Road.

Any additional costs associated with opening and maintaining access for Robinhood Beach would be provided by his group, he said.

If some kind of settlement between the Aspatores and CB/CIS isn’t reached soon, Helfgott said the Abrahamsons may consider another potential buyer for the private part of Cedar Beach Road.

The ability for the town to issue $220,000 in bonds will lapse by the end of 2014 if CB/CIS isn’t able to establish public access easements by that time.

Representatives for the Abrahamsons and Aspatores did not immediately return requests for comment.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.