Waterfront access lawsuit pits Owls Head against New York couple

Posted Oct. 11, 2013, at 2:49 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — A state judge will decide whether the town of Owls Head has an easement over a roadway that a couple claims is a private road. Also at stake is whether neighbors on the road have the right to cross the couple’s property to reach the ocean.

The trial on the lawsuit brought by Darlene F. Edwards and Lewis M. Edwards III of Saugerties, N.Y., is scheduled to begin Dec. 16 in Knox County Superior Court. Justice Jeffrey Hjelm has ruled that because the matter is not about damages but is about property rights, it will be heard before him and not a jury.

Owls Head had requested that the case be heard before a Knox County jury.

The Edwardses filed their lawsuit in November 2011.

The trial is expected to take five days. Five attorneys are representing various clients and four expert witnesses are scheduled to testify.

The Edwardses purchased the 1.7 acre lot at the end of Coopers Beach Road in March 2011 for $274,300 after a bank foreclosed on the previous owners.

In their lawsuit, the Edwardses claim that five neighbors also cross their property and are doing it to harass them.

The suit wants the judge to rule that the town does not have an easement on the road as it claims. The board of selectmen had voted in October 2011 to reaffirm that there was a public easement for the town to plow the road.

The town filed paperwork in court, stating that it has plowed the road since 1974. There also was a town meeting vote held in 1986 to accept the public easement.

The Edwardses, however, claim that the easement did not specify the boundaries of that easement and thus is not legitimate.

Since the lawsuit was filed in November 2011, residents have voted twice at town meetings to support spending money to defend the town’s interests. In December 2011, nearly 100 residents turned out to approve spending $50,000 to defend the town. In March 2012, 54 people turned out to agree to spend an additional $15,000.

Residents at those meetings had voiced support for the town’s position in the past as a way to send a message to people from out of state who own property near the waterfront.

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