2017-11-17 / Front Page

Cape to work with residents on paper streets

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH – How to deal with paper streets – streets that are listed on subdivision maps but never constructed or accepted as public ways – in two areas of town, Surfside, Atlantic Place in Shore Acres and Lighthouse Point Road near Two Lights, has been a topic of conversation, and contention, for town council members for the better part of a year.

In Oct. 2016, the town council voted to extend the town’s rights to 32 of the town’s paper streets until 2036 and directed members of the conservation committee to review the possibility of creating Greenbelt trails on the paper streets at Surfside, Atlantic Place and Lighthouse Point Road. On July 10, after receiving the conservation committee’s report, the council voted 4-3 to vacate the rights to those three paper streets, but a month later, at an Aug. 14 meeting, reversed course and brought it back to workshop discussion.

After weeks of workshops, private meetings with legal counsel and several hours of debate at their Nov. 6 meeting, councilors decided maintain the extension of rights to the two Shore Acre paper streets and enter into mediation to, as Councilor Penny Jordan said “do extensive problem solving” to find a compromise.

“My motion has to do with maintaining the extension and bringing a team of people together to work through facilitated sessions with people and representatives from the Ocean View Association, Shore Acres Association, town council and Cape Elizabeth residents,” Penny Jordan said.

To that end, the councilors voted unanimously to have Town Manager Matt Sturgis coordinate further discussions between town residents and town officials.

A suggestion by councilor Kathy Ray to have a non-binding resident referendum on the subject only got the support of herself and Jessica Sullivan, who was elected by her peers Monday to chair the town council for the next year. She previously served as chairman in 2014.

“We have some people who have some very impassioned feelings, so let them go to vote on it,” Ray said.

Sullivan said since the council has the “responsibility to protect an asset for the entire town in perpetuity,” a referendum would allow the entire town to weigh in about the subject.

Councilor Patty Grennon called a referendum a “terrible idea” because of the complexity of the issue.

“To put this out to a town vote would be irresponsible,” she said.

Councilor Sara Lennon said the town couldn’t put the topic out to vote because the town does not own the paper streets and won’t unless the council accepts them.

Councilors directed Sturgis to hire a professional, such as Greater Portland Council of Governments, to facilitate public forums between residents and town officials and report on progress next month, with final recommendation for the council to consider by March.

Mediation was something Sheila Mayberry, of Trundy Road, said she could support. There are a number of options that residents have not had a chance to discuss, including signage, landscaping, limiting them to resident use only, limiting width, as well as safety, traffic and maintenance proposals, she said.

“The stakeholders have never had a chance to engage in this type of productive problem solving. Now is the time to do so. A vote to vacate the public’s incipient rights to these paper streets will not foster productive problem solving,” Mayberry said.

As it exists now, the public doesn’t own the paper streets, but residents in the neighborhoods have rights to them through their property deeds. How to deal with the issue has divided the community. More than 20 residents shared their thoughts, and concerns with councilors at last week’s council meeting.

Paul Moson, of Trundy Road, said as of Nov. 6, a citizen effort petition – Save Our Shoreline Access Coalition – to urge the town council to accept the paper streets to provide access for all residents. The petition has 752 signatures, 91 percent of whom don’t live in the impacted neighborhoods. He pointed out if Cape Elizabeth had a citizen referendum mechanism, the 752 signatures would be enough to put it on the ballot.

Anne Swift-Kayatta, who served on the council for 12 years, said “vacating those paper street would be giving away for nothing public access.”

Andrew Ingalls, of Waumback Road, saw the issue a little differently. He said the topic of paper streets has “completely turned our neighborhood upside down” and voiced his support for the council vacating their rights, which would keep people from accessing the paper streets.

Jeff Monroe, a resident of Katahdin Road, said additional work is needed to bring parties together.

“It’d be nice to settle this and set it aside, but it is not there yet,” he said.

Tim Thompson, of Pine Ridge Road, agreed.

“It is something we need to deal with, but we don’t have to deal with it tonight,” he said as the meeting was heading well into its second hour.

Councilors voted to extend the rights to the Shore Acres paper streets to allow time for further discussion, but did act on the Lighthouse Point Road. Residents in that area have expressed concerns about accepting that paper street and allowing public access would only compound the traffic and congestion issue, especially from tourists visiting the Lobster Shack or Two Lights State Park.

A motion by Councilor Caitlin Jordan to vacate the town’s rights to Lighthouse Point Road failed to get the support to pass, with only herself and Lennon voting to vacate.

Sullivan and Ray argued it didn’t make sense to give up public access to that property.

“I don’t see it as our job to give away town assets without compensation,” Ray said.

Caitlin Jordan said to her that sounded like a bribe since the town doesn’t own the land, it cannot sell it, or get compensation for it. Ray said she wasn’t suggested the town takes a bribe, but rather simply the town, if the paper street is vacated, is giving up something without getting anything in return.

“In this case, I feel like Lighthouse Point is a little bit different than Surfside Ave in that (residents there) are being overrun by people and visitors and traffic and they have stated 100 percent of abutters don’t want this,” Grennon said.

She said she would rather preserve the town’s right, but not create a public path down there. Lennon said she supports vacating the town’s right there, “because it seems to me, to be a poor place for a path” and would be keeping in line with the public pleas. Sullivan said Cape Elizabeth Land Trust has expressed an interest in the town maintaining its right there so when, or if the Coast Guard land there ever comes under town ownership, the area could be a natural open space for people to enjoy. Sullivan said the traffic issues there are in no way tied to the paper street issue as traffic in that part of town has been increasing for years.

Penny Jordan said the comprehensive plan may be able to help solve that traffic issue because through the plan, town officials are going to “start to create some goals and strategies around how we want to handle tourism in Cape Elizabeth.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

FMI

The Cape Elizabeth Town Council has directed Town Manager Matt Sturgis to explore setting up mediation and public forums regarding what the town should do with paper streets in the Shore Acres part of town and report back to them at their Dec. 11 meeting. The council has requested a full report from the public sessions by March 2018.

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