2018-02-16 / Front Page

Avenue 2 hearings scheduled

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

The public will have their opportunity to yet again share their opinions on the town’s possible discontinuance of the oceanside section of Avenue 2 Wednesday, Feb. 21 and again March 7.

According to the agreement on the table now, which town councilors approved 4-2 last week (with Katy Foley and Peter Hayes in opposition), the town would discontinue the 50-foot wide road, which was never built but existed on mapping, and give each of the abutting property owners, the Gables by the Sea condominium association and Charles Gendron 25 feet in exchange for a public easement in which the public to use a 10-foot path to Pine Point Beach for perpetuity.

The topic of discontinuing the seaside end of Avenue 2 first came up in early 2016 when Gendron came to the town with plans to expand his house, something that couldn’t be done without the town discontinuing its rights to that 50-foot wide section of Avenue 2.

An agreement has been signed between the three parties, but the idea still has to be aired at two public hearings and have final action by the council. The most recent agreement includes provisions that stipulate the town can erect a sign that states “Public way to the beach/Use of motorized vehicles is strictly prohibited” and “Sensitive Dune Area” along the path and that while using the path the public should “comply with all applicable town ordinances,” including Chapter 612, which bans alcohol and drug use on the site. The use of the path would be enforced by Scarborough police.

“We believe we are the at the point where we have an agreement,” said Town Council Chairman Bill Donovan, who added his goal in all of this was to “maintain access as it has existed for the last 100 to 200 years.”

Bergen Parkinson attorney Ben McCall, who is representing the town in the matter, said the agreement “provides the middle ground.” He said if the matter were to go to court and the town lost, there would be nothing that would stop the abutters from privatizing the land. Gendron has said it has never been his intention to do so, however.

Councilor Chris Caiazzo supports the discontinuance and the agreement at hand.

“I think it is a win-win. We have heard from the public and have protected public access forever,” he said.

Councilor Shawn Babine said he supports it and “has from day one.”

Councilor Will Rowan said while it is not a perfect agreement, it is “in the best interest of all the people in town.” Councilor Katy Foley, however, said she could not support discontinuance. Neither will Hayes, who said he has heard from a lot of people who feel the property should remain as it is.

Two members of the public spoke at last week’s town council meeting and shared their concerns with the approach the town is taking.

Pine Point Road resident Mo Erickson is frustrated the town council is proceeding the way it is despite hearing from a number of Pine Point residents who would like the property to remain as it is.

“You are a town council that doesn’t listen. You don’t listen to Pine Pointers. You have a vision for Pine Point that most don’t have,” she said, before saying she hopes town voters “use their brains” and not reelect the councilors who aren’t listening.

Susan Foley-Ferguson said the town should try to reach some sort of contract zone agreement on the property instead of giving up its rights to the land.

“Be the town council that quits giving away valuable public land. It’s a win-win for all of us,” she said.

A group of residents from Pine Point have come together to argue that by discontinuing the road and giving away its rights to it, the town is going against recommendations in the 2006 comprehensive plan that state the town should be preserving and protecting public access points to the water.

While there was little debate among councilors about the discontinuance, there was some discussion whether the town should hold both public hearings. Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina had a motion to limit the public hearing to Feb. 21 only, in part because of how long the topic has dragged in.

“I’d be hard pressed to find any other issue in this town that has been aired more or had more attorneys involved,” she said before adding, “it’s time to fish or cut bait.”

The idea didn’t gain the support of her fellow councilors beyond Donovan. Babine and Rowan said they preferred holding two public hearings as had been promised. Hayes said, with the council’s goal of trying to reestablish trust and transparency, holding the two public hearings is the right thing to do.

“We announced it and committed to it,” Hayes said, before Caterina withdrew her motion.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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