2017-12-15 / Front Page

More Ave 2 discussions scheduled

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

After getting last-minute changes to an Avenue 2 discontinuance agreement from the Gables on the Sea Condominium Association, it is back to the drawing board for the town and involved parties

The town council was set last week to continue the discontinuance process and set two public hearings for Jan. 3 and Jan. 17 before making a final determination whether to discontinue the 50-foot-wide paper street, which for generations has been used as a walking path to Pine Point Beach, but opted rather to get all the parties back together to review the changes the association was looking for.

By a 5-0 vote, with two abstentions, in late November, the condominium association suggested several tweaks to the easement language, including only allowing public usage from dawn to dusk, banning alcohol, drugs, camping and fires on the path and the right to put two signs – asking users to respect the privacy of abutters – on the fence that will be put along that path.

After urging from some members of the public, councilors decided the changes were material enough to warrant a round of additional negotiations.

“What we are asking the council to do is get the town manager to reconvene the parties as soon as possible and revert back to the last version of the document that was agreed to in October and resolve any and all open issues before the council considers any discontinuance or conveyance,” said Pauline Levin, a resident of Lane By the Sea.

Councilor Will Rowan said it seemed “reasonable” to get the parties back together.

Councilor Katy Foley said she would support the groups reconvening.

“Unfortunately this wrinkle was brought forth at the 11th hour so I think it is a very fair request and one we should honor,” she said after saying personally she would like to keep the property as it is.

“For the Gables to come in unilaterally with a last minute change, is a little disheartening. All parties have put a lot of time into this,” vice chairman Chris Caiazzo said.

The topic of discontinuing the seaside end of Avenue 2 first came up in early 2016 when Charles Gendron, who owns the abutting property on King Street, came to the town with plans to expand his house, something that couldn’t be done without the town discontinuing its rights to the that 50-foot wide section of Avenue 2. The discontinuance has been the topic of five public meetings since February, as well as several executive sessions. The agreement, if ultimately passed, would give Gendron 25 feet and the Gables by the Sea the other 25 feet. In exchange, the town would be granted a five-foot easement for the public to be used as a walking path to the beach.

Despite proposed improvements to the vegetation along the path, many residents of Pine Point have been vocal about this not being a good deal for the town.

“Right now we have a 50-foot wide path. The proposal is we give ownership away to the two abutters (a nice windfall for them with a lower-than-the-going-rate tax assessment) and in exchange the citizens get a 10-foot walkway with restrictions,” The Pine Point Residents Group wrote in an email.

The group calls that section of Avenue 2, “a natural park, a simply beautiful and accessible path to the best beach in Maine, enjoyed for a century and a half” that “needs to be protected forever.”

Ben McCall, an attorney with Bergen-Parkinson, a firm retained by the town to provide guidance on the paper street issue, said two of the changes – the dawn to dusk window and prohibition of drugs and alcohol use – are provisions in Chapter 612, of the town’s ordinance, which applies to town parks, beaches, playgrounds and other spaces of recreation. McCall said Chapter 612 would apply to Avenue 2 whether the condo association’s changes are included in the final agreement or not.

“There is an extent to which that language, from the town’s perspective, is redundant,” he said.

That may be true, councilor Will Rowan said, but there is a chance a future could change that ordinance if it saw fit, but that language would still be in the Avenue 2 agreement.

Caiazzo asked Jensen Baird Gardner Henry attorney Charlie Katz-Levy, who is representing the condo association, what his clients’ intent was if there is already a standing ordinance on the books stipulating the hours of use and prohibition of drug and alcohol use.

Katz-Levy said his clients have no intention of blocking access to the beach or change the way the path has historically been used. He said they would be “open and flexible” to thinking about changing that language.

“The association is not intent to be obstructionists,” he said.

John Bannon, an attorney with Murray, Plumb & Murray, who is representing Charles Gendron, said neither he nor his client participated in the condo association’s redrafting of the agreement and “takes no position if the changes are made or not.”

The residents group argue that over the years, the town has already given away other areas of public access, including Avenue 5 and Avenue 6 on the marsh-side of Pine Point, something that violates the town’s 2006 comprehensive plan. Avenue 4, they said, could also be in jeopardy with an abutter there also potentially looking for a discontinuance.

Mo Erickson, a resident of Pine Point Road, is angered the process has played out this far and told the council she doesn’t feel they are representing the interests of the general public, but rather the interest of one resident looking to expand his property.

“Shame on all of us,” she said at the Dec. 6 council meeting. “It’s disgusting. If you vote for this, you should be embarrassed about your lack of support for the Pine Point community. You are out of touch with the people of Pine Point. You aren’t listening. You never have.”

Councilor Peter Hayes said after hearing from Pine Point residents, he feels the town should, in the end, not discontinue that section of Avenue 2.

“I don’t support the discontinuance. I believe it is town property and I think the residents of Pine Point have spoken loudly,” he said.

Chairman Bill Donovan said his number one goal throughout this process has been public access with very little change to what exists out there today and what has existed for hundreds of years.

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