CAPE ELIZABETH — Heated debate continued Monday night over whether the Town Council should accept or vacate partially undeveloped streets that run between the waterfront and several multimillion-dollar homes in the Shore Acres neighborhood.

Town councilors and residents offered conflicting opinions on the ideal action for the future of Surf Side Avenue and Atlantic Place, two so-called paper streets that appeared on the 1911 subdivision plan but were never fully built or completed.

The council decided one year ago to extend the town’s right to accept the paper streets for an additional 20 years. Pressed by councilors, Durward Parkinson, an attorney for the town, said a decision either to accept or vacate the right could embroil the town in costly and protracted lawsuits.

Councilor Sara Lennon said the council would be “rolling the dice with taxpayers’ money” if it accepted Surf Side Avenue and Atlantic Place. Lennon and councilors Caitlyn Jordan and James Garvin said they support vacating all or part of the paper streets.

Surf Side Avenue is a “paper street” – a road that was proposed but never completed – running along the ocean in front of multimillion-dollar homes. Staff photo by Jill Brady

Lennon emphasized that the general public currently doesn’t have the legal right to be on the paper streets, but residents of the subdivision do, either stated or implied in their deeds. She also described residents of the paper streets as “nothing but patient and gracious” toward neighbors who have walked along the waterfront, and they have offered to provide deeded rights to neighbors who have implied rights.

Councilors Katharine Ray and Jessica Sullivan said they favor either accepting the paper streets or taking no action. Ray disputed Lennon’s characterization of the waterfront residents as welcoming.

“I was challenged when I went down there,” Ray said. If the council vacates Surf Side Avenue and Atlantic Place, Ray said, she expects the situation will get worse for neighbors who report being harassed if they walk there now.

Sullivan disputed Lennon’s and Jordan’s assertion that the town’s right to accept the paper streets for public access isn’t an asset.

“I insist that it’s an asset,” Sullivan said. “The right itself is an asset. … Why would we throw it away? Once we vacate, we’re done.”

Councilors Penny Jordan and Patty Grennon declined to indicate their positions before the council votes next Monday. The council also is considering a proposal to accept or vacate a paper street at Lighthouse Point Road, near the popular Lobster Shack at Two Lights restaurant.

Councilors appeared divided on how they might vote on the paper street there, but eager to address existing parking and traffic concerns.

The Conservation Committee has identified Surf Side Avenue and Atlantic Place as potential trails in the town’s 2013 Greenbelt Plan, but it has no plans to install a trail there at this time. The committee hasn’t recommended that a trail be constructed at Lighthouse Point Road, but it does support the preservation of the town’s rights to the paper streets.

A petition signed by 693 residents so far is calling for councilors to accept all three paper streets “so they will be protected forever and for all Cape citizens to enjoy.”

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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