Judge rules in favor of beach access for neighbors
Rockland — A Knox County Superior Court judge ruled July 30 in favor of the town of Owls Head and a neighbor of the plaintiffs, agreeing the parties have a right of way to a beach property that a New York couple sought to restrict access to.
Darlene and Lewis Edwards, of Saugerties, N.Y., and Cooper's Beach Road in Owls Head, claimed the town and their neighbors did not have an easement over their property to access the beach, although the municipality countered that it did, by virtue of public and private prescriptive easement rights.
They filed a lawsuit in 2011 to overturn a decision by town selectmen that there is a public easement over what the couple says is their property. The trial was scheduled in December 2013.
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm ruled the neighbors could still use the beach for bathing and boating purposes, and that they are allowed to use a portion of the Edwardses' driveway to travel on.
The Edwardses' attorney, David Soley of Portland said his clients moved to Maine for peace and seclusion, and that the deed to the house did not warn of such activity. He said his client never forbade anybody from walking across a potion of their driveway, but that she preferred if people would ask her permission, as she was concerned about parties, trash, and unleashed dogs.
Although his clients are disappointed with the ruling, Soley said there were points that were favorable to them, including neither the neighbor or town has prescriptive rights to the property due to past use. The town was not seeking beach access rights, Soley said.
Soley said his clients are not just summer residents, and said they are planning to move to Maine full-time.
The complaint was against the town of Owls Head as well as Darlene and Lewis Edwardses' neighbors Cynthia S. Blackman, Nathalie M. Scott, Willis A. Scott Jr., Eliot A. Scott, and Constance M. Scott, citing some neighbors would "spitefully drive and/or walk over and across the driveway, grass, and property of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards. They are not going anywhere — but are just seeking to harass the Edwards."
In 1986, the town voted to accept the dedication of a public easement over Cooper's Beach Road so that the road could be plowed and sanded during the winter. The man who owned the Edwardses' property at the time, John McLoon, signed the petition in support of the easement, as well as abutters of the property.
The town contended the Edwardses are time-barred from challenging the 28-year-old decision.
Justice Jeffrey Hjelm wrote in his decision that the Cooper's Beach Road neighborhood is regarded as a colony, and for good reason. He said the congenial relationship the neighbors shared implied permission to use the beach and cross over properties to visit each other.
The defendants and the town of Owls Head are entitled to their legal costs being covered, Hjelm ruled.
The town's Board of Selectmen will be discussing the matter at its next meeting, Monday, Aug. 4, at 4 p.m.
Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org