Drummond Woodsum has won an important interim ruling from Maine's highest court on behalf of The Town of Kennebunkport. In the December 9, 2014 decision the Supreme Judicial Court for the State of Maine agreed to reconsider its earlier decision not to recognize a public prescriptive easement on Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. This decision allows new arguments in the Goose Rocks Beach case, keeping alive the Town's efforts to keep the entire beach open to public use.
The dispute began in 2009 when several beachfront owners sued the town of Kennebunkport seeking the right to exclude all others from using Goose Rocks Beach, even though the beach has been used by the public for recreational purposes for well over a century and maintained by the town for all to enjoy. In 2012 the town reached agreement with more than half the beachfront owners on Goose Rocks Beach that ensures continued public access to the beach while respecting private property rights. But the plaintiff beachfront owners continued their lawsuit against the town and in February obtained a favorable decision from the high court ruling against the town on its public prescriptive easement arguments. The earlier decision has now been withdrawn and reissued, giving the town a chance to go back to court on that issue.
Drummond Woodsum attorney Amy Tchao who represents the town of Kennebunkport said, "The court has breathed new life into our effort – the town's effort – to keep the beaches open to the public, which is important to the town and to the economy. That gives the town the opportunity to go back and, based upon evidence already in the record, to establish public beach rights on Goose Rocks Beach on a parcel-by-parcel basis, which is what we had asked to do."
Also at issue in this case were arguments made by the State of Maine and the town under the public trust doctrine, which governs the public's rights in the intertidal zone on Goose Rocks Beach and statewide. Although the Supreme Court's December 9th ruling declined to reach those arguments on the merits, they will likely be addressed after a trial on the plaintiffs' titles, which is the next step in this case.
Drummond Woodsum attorneys Amy Tchao and Brian Willing expect the York County Superior Court will schedule a conference to determine the future course of proceedings early in 2015.
December 9, 2014, Bangor Daily News "High court ruling will allow Kennebunkport to argue lot-by-lot for public access to private beach properties." To read the article, please click here.
December 9, 2014, The Portland Press Herald "Maine's high court allows new arguments in Goose Rocks Beach access case." To read the article, please click here.
December 9, 2014, Seacoast Online "New Goose Rocks ruling open to interpretation." To read the article, please click here.