May 28, 2018
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Bar Harbor hotelier sued in beach access dispute

By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Two local men have filed a lawsuit against hotel developer Thomas T. Walsh, alleging the construction of a wall at one of his local properties is obstructing their access to a publicly used beach.

Jack Cunningham and James Houghton claim the retaining wall, being built at Walsh’s Harborside Hotel & Marina property on West Street, is “blocking and will continue to block the traditional and permanent location of travel established by the general public,” according to the complaint filed in Hancock County Superior Court.

Walsh’s family owns and controls Ocean Properties Ltd., which has more than 100 hotel resort properties in North America. Ocean Properties Ltd. is the parent company of Golden Anchor LC, which operates the Harborside Hotel & Marina.

Cunningham and Houghton claim that the small beach, located between two of Walsh’s properties and a third owned by rival hotelier David J. Witham, has been used by the public for more than two decades and perhaps dates back as far as 1950. It has been used for access to Frenchman Bay, for loading and unloading boats, and as a place to fix and maintain boats, they indicate in the complaint.

In a written response to the complaint, attorneys for Golden Anchor acknowledge the wall is being built, but deny that it is barring access to the beach or that the public’s use of the beach is as extensive as Cunningham and Houghton claim.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to determine that a public easement to the beach exists across Walsh’s property, and to require Golden Anchor to pay their costs for going to court.

Attempts Thursday afternoon to contact attorneys on either side of the dispute were unsuccessful.

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