Mann Cemetery Association and L.L. Bean are in talks to resolve their dispute over cemetery access, but the sides presented differing versions last week of the progress being made in those discussions.

The president of the Mann Cemetery Association said that L.L. Bean “has given the Mann Cemetery Association and the Mann family their word” that an access dispute will be worked out “and has said that our latest proposal for a settlement is reasonable.”

John Mann said in an email last Thursday that out of respect for that process, he would have no further comment. At issue is a disagreement between Bean and the owners of an ancient cemetery that borders the L.L. Bean Flying Point Paddling Center regarding use of an old access road to the cemetery that crosses Bean’s land, and has been mostly grassed over.

As for its part, L.L. Bean takes a slightly different take on any so-called settlement.

“We have been working in good faith with the Mann Cemetery Association to find a viable solution,” company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said in another email to the Tri-Town Weekly last week. “While we initiated dialogue, we have not reached an agreement, nor have we considered options beyond one proposal from the Manns which suggests a road to be built by the association across our property. It is premature for the Manns to overstate the extent of our discussion and categorize it as a settlement.”

So that’s where the parties stand in a dispute that has L.L. Bean going to the Freeport Project Review Board for a site plan amendment. The board has scheduled a public hearing on the matter for Sept. 13. The site plan was approved  by the Project Review Board in September 2013, with the condition that the final plan show the traditional access to the Mann Cemetery.

L.L. Bean planted grass over part of the access road to the cemetery, according to a plan approved by the Project Review Board, making the road no longer accessible by vehicles. The company worked with abutting landowners to provide an alternative deeded access to the cemetery, but the Manns insisted that they should have access to the traditional gravel road, and went to the town with the matter.

Fred Reeder, the code enforcement officer, said that because the road showed on the site plan, cutting off access might be a violation of the plan approved by the Project Review Board. L.L. Bean then filed an appeal of Reeder’s decision to the Project Review Board, which tabled action on an amended site plan.

Mann Cemetery Association then sought a decision from the Board of Appeals, which met last Monday night in a crowded Town Council chambers. The board tabled the matter, pending a decision by the Project Review Board. Cliff Goodall, chairman of the Project Review Board, said that the board must have all documents and evidence on the matter by Sept. 1, should the issue not be settled by then.

“It also needs to be made clear that the Project Review Board has no right to determine who had what property rights,” Goodall said. “Only a court can determine if those rights exist.”

The old gravel road from the L.L. Bean Paddling Center to Mann Cemetery is still visible from the cemetery end.

The old gravel road from the L.L. Bean Paddling Center to Mann Cemetery is still visible from the cemetery end.

Some graves at Mann Cemetery in Freeport date back to the early 1700s.

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