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Council reconsidering decision to extend rights in Shore Acres paper streets

The Town Council is reconsidering its October 2016 decision to extend the town's rights in two paper streets in the Shore Acres subdivision, and one in the Two Lights area, for the next 20 years.

By a 4-3 vote July 10, 2017, councilors voted to begin procedures for vacating rights in Surf Side Avenue, Atlantic Place and Lighthouse Point Road; at the same time they voted to accept reports on the feasibility of establishing greenbelt trails at those locations.

Paper streets are streets that appear on subdivisions plans but not yet accepted by the town. The Legislature has directed all Maine municipalities to decide by September whether to accept their paper streets as public ways, to vacate their rights of acceptance, or to extend those rights for the next 20 years.

Last October the Cape Elizabeth Town Council voted to extend rights in 32 of the town's 58 paper streets, to vacate seven of them, and to accept 19 for specific purposes such as bike or greenbelt trails. All votes were unanimous except for extention of rights in Surf Side Avenue (4-3); Atlantic Place (4-3); and Lighthouse Point Road (6-1). Councilors that evening voted unanimously, however, to study the feasibility of using the streets as greenbelt trails some day. [news article]

Jim Tasse, who heads the Conservation Committee charged with conducting the study, told councilors July 10 that although there are no technical obstructions to installing a trail at either Surf Side Avenue/Atlantic Place or Lighthouse Point Road, the committee at this time is not interested in putting any trails there. He repeated the committee's recommendation that the town retain rights in the paper streets for future trails.

Following Tasse's presentation and comment from several neighbors, Councilor Caitlin Jordan moved to accept the report and "to take necessary steps to begin vacating" the paper streets. Supporting the motion were councilors Penny Jordan, Sara Lennon and Patty Grennon; opposing were councilors Kathy Ray, Jessica Sullivan and Jamie Garvin.

Most councilors repeated positions on the Shore Acres paper streets that they held in October: Opponents of vacating believe the town should retain a community asset for the future; proponents want to see them under private control. Penny Jordan, who seconded Caitlin Jordan's motion to begin vacation proceedings, was not on the council in October.

After the meeting, Town Manager Matthew Sturgis said that staff will consult with legal counsel to determine the statutory steps for vacating paper streets for presentation at the council's August meeting. Steps will likely include neighborhood notice and at least one public hearing. The council may also meet in workshop to go over the trail feasibility studies completed by Sebago Technics that were reviewed and accepted by the Conservation Committee.