City Council also seeks advice on adverse possession of harbor path

Rockland asks attorney if easement to vocational school can be revoked

By Stephen Betts | Sep 05, 2019
Photo by: Stephen Betts The Rockland City Council has asked its attorney to research whether the public has gained the right to use a trail along the harbor in back of the Midcoast School of Technology.

Rockland — The Rockland City Council has asked its attorney if an easement granted last year to the Midcoast School of Technology can be revoked.

The City Council has also asked for legal advice on whether the public has gained the right to use a trail along the waterfront in back of the new technical and career center.

Those two issues were raised Wednesday evening, Sept. 4, by Councilor Valli Geiger as the city and the regional vocational center are at odds over whether Rockland can extend the harbor trail in back of the school.

The school has balked at allowing such a trail, saying for safety reasons it did not want the public to have access to that property. At a Region 8 Board meeting last week, a school official said fences on both the north and south sides of the property were planned to extend all the way to the water.

In June 2018, Rockland granted Region 8 an easement to allow water to drain onto city property on the north side of the school. That easement saved the school money, because otherwise it would have had to design a retaining wall to deal with drainage.

Geiger asked the attorney if the city could revoke that easement.

Attorney Mary Costigan attended the meeting, but no opinion was immediately given to allow for time to research the issue.

Geiger also pointed out that the public has used the path along the back of the school for more than 40 years.

Rockland Code Enforcement Officer John Root issued the school a six-month conditional permit to occupy the building Aug. 30. Among the conditions that must be met is that a fence cannot be erected until it has been approved by the Rockland Planning Board.

The Planning Board agreed to allow the fence if it the school participated in good faith negotiations with the city for the public path.

The school opened Sept. 3.

An open house is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 9, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Sep 07, 2019 00:57

Ms.  Fisher, It was difficult to tell at the recent Region 8 board meeting whether you were answering to the Board or whether the Chairman was answering to your direction. Your written statement "If you have paid any attention to the news for the last decade schools have been the target of violence and other bad behavior." (sic)  This shows more than  condescension, it also shows the attitude you harbor toward the community which has forfeited taxes on an oceanfront property that could have brought relief to to its tax base.  It seems that you felt the need to bolster your argument by warning of sexual predators, thieves and school shootings.  Your fence at the back stops none of those dedicated perpetrators coming through the front but may trap all but the most agile students who can swing themselves over the fence to escape.

Your next offer is that people will be free to pass when school is not in session.  When would that be?  It seems day and night classes, meetings, and other functions will be going on most of the time.  I could bet that you envision that the restriction will cause people to forget about that passage they once used.

You may not be aware that there has been judicial record of supporting the right of the public to continue the use of pathways and roads for which there has been longtime usage. In this case the ownership is by public entities.  You and the board members are only temporary caretakers of what the public has allowed.  It seems this may well be settled by the courts once again.

Posted by: Erik Laustsen | Sep 06, 2019 20:34


To clarify the “Fencegate debacle” timeline I thought it might be helpful if I outlined the sequence of submittals to the Planning Board from Region 8 Mid-Coast School of Technology.

The original submittals did NOT include the perimeter fencing.These submittals, including the Site plan,were reviewed at the 3/7/17 Planning Board meeting at which time a public hearing was held.On 6/6/17 the plan came back to us with required additional information and was approved that evening with conditions, but still without the request for fencing . I personally requested that the director contact the Harbor Trail Committee to work with them. Again on 8/15/17 the Planning Board reviewed the Site plan for required additional information and revisions with still no mention of fencing.

Finally on July 9, 2019 , well over two years since the original submittals, a revised site plan was presented to the Planning Board which included the perimeter fencing. At this time the Planning Board became alarmed that the proposed fencing would close off public access .There has been public access for 43 years that many Rockland residents have enjoyed. The question becomes has this created a prescriptive easement for the city of Rockland and its residents.

The fencing was obviously not an original thought or concern since it took well over two years to propose it when the building was nearing completion.The Region 8 Board had a meeting on 8/28/19 and stated that the fencing on the harbor side was eliminated on the plan but it was later revealed by Planning Board member Carol Maines, in a question posed to the Region 8 Board ,that the proposed fence would now run down to the water on both the north and south sides blocking all public access. Also at this same meeting , the Region 8 Board had fencing on their agenda but skipped over it without discussion. Now the school will have to once again meet with the Planning Board to review the fencing for the possibility of approval. Erik Laustsen

Posted by: Gayle Murphy | Sep 06, 2019 13:47
Posted by: Doug Curtis Jr. | Sep 06, 2019 13:17


I will call you for an appointment. Feel free to invite any school board member to the meeting.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Sep 06, 2019 12:54

People, like myself and Ms Geiger, have legitimate concerns (and NO dog) and this is the answer received from the person supposedly in charge of operations?  Sad state of affairs that it has come to this.  Life in 2019 it seems.  :(

Posted by: Mid-Coast School of Technology | Sep 06, 2019 12:33

What the school has asked is that during school hours the students have the use of the school's property and that public use at other times be in compliance with state law and school board policy. All the other comments regarding this are speculation and not based on what the school has discussed with the town manager.

If you have paid any attention to the news for the last decade schools have been the target of violence and other bad behaviors. While school is in session the purpose of the entire property is to serve students' needs. If you have cut through the neighbors yard for a few years it doesn't mean you own it. Unfortunately the lack of restraint by a few requires us to take precautions to protect the students who are in our school. If I am to be the target of derision for maintaining that stance, so be it. My first responsibility is to the students not to those who want to use the school property for a dog park.

I would invite Ms. Geiger and others who question our motives to come have a conversation with us instead of jumping to conclusions in public meetings without actually understanding what our position is regarding public access.


Beth Fisher, Director of MCST

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 06, 2019 08:14

I do not however, believe that the Midcoast School of Technology should build the fence all the way down to the water.

Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 06, 2019 08:13

Why should this be revoke?  Just because some people want more walking paths?  Once the city does something, it is finally.  Look at the Brass Compass.  No, the easement should not be revoked.  Lynn wanted to talk with the city again about alcohol being served outside in the small park.  The city said no they do not want to talk to her again.  Yet, the city wants to "erase" the easement they gave the Midcoast School of Technology last year?!  What do you think?

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 05, 2019 08:53

Don't think administrators, city officials and committee members would make good card players. " we'll let you build this fence if you participate in good faith negotiations " ?  So who's to say coming to a meeting, smiling and agreeing to talk even if you have NO intention of changing your mind, makes any difference ?  At least John gave a permit based upon Approval of the board, although I would NOT have granted the permit.  Let them sweat a little.  It's never good to show all your cards.  I will be surprised if ANYTHING changes.

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