Landowners call Harpswell beach access suit ‘baseless’ and ‘vindictive’

The private portion of Cedar Beach Road has been closed by neighbors Charles and Sally Abrahamson since 2011. Citizens' group Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters filed suit against the Abrahamsons and another couple about access to the beach, and is now working with owners of other adjacent properties to negotiate an easement.
Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
The private portion of Cedar Beach Road has been closed by neighbors Charles and Sally Abrahamson since 2011. Citizens' group Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters filed suit against the Abrahamsons and another couple about access to the beach, and is now working with owners of other adjacent properties to negotiate an easement.
By Dylan Martin, The Forecaster
Posted Sept. 27, 2013, at 10:49 a.m.

HARPSWELL, Maine — The defendants in a lawsuit that seeks to open access to Cedar Beach say the complaint against them is “baseless” and “vindictive,” according to a court document.

In a Sept. 20 filing in Cumberland County Superior Court, Jonathan and Rachel Aspatore deny claims by Cedar Beach/Cedar Island Supporters that people have a right to walk over the Aspatores’ property to reach the Bailey Island beach.

The group claims an easement exists on land owned by the Aspatores to allow residents to cross from Cedar Beach Road to the beach, according to the complaint filed in August.

To support the claim against the Aspatores, the group attached copies of a purchase-and-sale agreement and quitclaim deed for the Aspatores’ property that reference an easement for residents of Harpswell.

The Aspatores’ response denies an easement was reserved when the land was sold by the Family Trust of Edith Goodwin.

The filing also questions the authenticity of the purchase-and-sale agreement because “it appears to have redactions and omissions and as the principal contract is not signed by anyone other than John Goodwin, Trustee.”

In addition, the filing says neither the group nor Goodwin, who is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, have standing because neither is an “inhabitant of the town of Harpswell.”

“The sentences [in the complaint] suggest that the lawsuit is commenced to ‘vindicate’ the rights of the inhabitants of Harpswell and the Defendants deny that,” the court filing says. “Indeed, [the Aspatores] view the Complaint, particularly where it has not been commenced by the representatives of the Inhabitants of Harpswell, namely, the town of Harpswell, as having been initiated to be vindictive towards the Defendants.”

The Aspatores are asking the court to award them costs and attorney fees. Their lawyer, Judy Metcalf of Eaton Peabody, will not respond to requests for comment pertaining to the lawsuit, a receptionist at the law firm said Monday.

The beach group is also suing Charles and Sally Abrahamson, owners of Cedar Beach Road, to affirm a prescriptive easement over the private road that would allow passage from public space to the Aspatores’ land.

In addition, the group is seeking an alternate path to Cedar Beach through proposed easements over land owned by supporters of beach access.

The group had previously attempted to negotiate with the Abrahamsons for a prescriptive easement on Cedar Beach Road, but failed because the Harpswell Board of Selectmen was unable to reach an agreement with the Aspatores for terms of use.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/09/27/news/portland/landowners-call-harpswell-beach-access-suit-baseless-and-vindictive/ printed on December 26, 2014