New York couple appeals ruling that lets residents cross Owls Head property

Posted Aug. 26, 2014, at 8:02 p.m.

OWLS HEAD, Maine — A New York couple has appealed a judge’s ruling that their neighbors and the town of Owls Head have the right to cross their waterfront property.

A local selectman said Tuesday that a special town meeting will be called to seek voter approval for funding to fight the appeal.

Darlene F. and Lewis M. Edwards III of Saugerties, New York, filed their appeal Tuesday with the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Since the Edwardses initially filed their lawsuit in November 2011, the town has spent more than $75,000 in legal fees to defend its position that it has a public easement along 300 feet of land the couple states is their driveway.

Residents twice have voted at town meetings to support spending money to defend the town’s interests. Many of the residents who spoke at those meetings said the town needed to send a message to people from out of state who own property near the water that the town also has rights.

Selectman Richard Carver said Tuesday that he estimates another $20,000 will be needed to defend the town at the next court level. Carver said he will support spending the money.

“The town has a public easement over the entire road and people have the right to walk and drive over it,” he said.

The Edwardses purchased a 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 November of that year, they filed a lawsuit claiming there was no easement and that neighbors were trespassing.

Coopers Beach Road runs from North Shore Drive to near the harbor.

Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ruled last month that Owls Head had a public easement across the property and that neighbors also had the right to cross the property and to have access to the beach.

“Homeowners, both year-round and seasonal, have developed strong friendships with each other. As an aspect of the relationships among them, they sometimes walk on or otherwise use each other’s property. Families visited with each other, and there were neighborhood parties and events,” Hjelm stated in his ruling, also citing property records.

He stated that use of the beach by local residents was a long-standing practice, ruling that the record shows that the neighbors have the right to use the intertidal area of the beach, that the Edwardses own, for bathing and boating purposes.

The Edwardses also filed a lawsuit against their title insurance company last August. That case remains pending before the Maine Business and Consumer Court in Portland.

 

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