The city of Biddeford is asking a court to affirm that it owns the property at 162 Hill’s Beach Road. The President of Hill’s Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit, writing on behalf of the nonprofit, maintains it is the legal owner. Journal Tribune File Photo/Ed Pierce

ALFRED — A civil trial has been tentatively set for January 2023 at York District Court in connection with a 2021 complaint filed by the city of Biddeford against Hills Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit.

The complaint centers around property at 162 Hill’s Beach Road.

The city is asking a York County Superior Court justice to “establish and confirm its title to the property,” is seeking declaratory judgement and alleges the city has been subjected to slander of title, according to the complaint filed by Keith Jacques, who was city attorney at the time of the filing on May 21, 2021. The city’s current attorney is Harry B. Center II, who was appointed in April.

Raymond Cronkite, responding as president of Hill’s Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit president, disputes the city’s claims and alleges the city “illegally” seized the land and the rescue station building from its rightful owner, the Hill’s Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit, and has deprived the Rescue Unit of fulfilling its intended purpose.

Cronkite, in his response to the civil complaint filed by the city, said the rescue station building was constructed by Hill’s Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit volunteers.

Biddeford, in its complaint, noted the city conveyed property at 162 Hills Beach Road to the Hills Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit on Nov. 13, 1980, with a provision that “conveyance is made upon the express condition that the premises …. shall be forever held, used and maintained as a fire department.” The city further contends that upon breach of the provision, title of the property reverts to the grantor, the city of Biddeford.


The city’s complaint states the property was used as an on call firefighting station from the early 1980s until 2004 when the state adopted new training standards, and as a result the Fire and Rescue Unit ceased to be involved in firefighting.

It noted the city’s website indicates the city closed the Hill’s Beach fire station in 2007. The complaint states the building has fallen into “serious” disrepair, and no longer has electricity, water or heat.

On Oct. 15, 2019, Biddeford City Council authorized the city to enter into a lease purchase agreement with the nonprofit Hill’s Beach Association, whereby the association would make improvements to the building and property for use as a community center. The city’s complaint states the defendant filed an affidavit on May 19, 2020 with the York County Registry of Deeds asserting the title of the property has not reverted to the city.

The city states that continued claims of right, title and interest to the property has prevented it from entering into the agreement with the Hills Beach Association “causing damage to the City.”

The city is requesting judgement in its favor, a finding the defendant has slandered the city’s title to the property, and an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and “such other and further relief as may be just and proper.”

Cronkite responded to the complaint on behalf of the nonprofit Fire and Rescue Unit. He said the Hills Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit’s primary purpose was to save lives and property. He said the Rescue Unit was prevented from using the building to house equipment to provide rescues, aid residents and provide shelter and warmth during power outages. He said the building has fallen into disrepair because the city seized it, changed the locks, refused the Rescue Unit access to the building and further claimed the city turned off the utilities.


He said the city deprived the Rescue Unit of use of the building and land to conduct occasional community meetings and to raise funds to properly maintain the building, among other claims.

He alleged the city did not have the authority to enter into the lease purchase agreement with the Hill’s Beach Association or any other entity for real estate he maintains is owned by the Rescue Unit’s corporation.

Cronkite, on behalf of the Hills Beach Volunteer Fire and Rescue Unit, is asking the court to deny the city’s claims, which he said are contrary to law and the Rescue Unit’s corporate rights under the 14th amendment of the U. S. Constitution. He is asking the court to hold the city liable “for having deprived the Rescue Unit corporation and its volunteer Rescue Station of the legal right to have remained in possession of the Rescue Unit’s land and building, which it owns.”

He is asking the court to order the city to return custody of the real estate, to install new door locks on the building, return all equipment and furnishings removed from the structure, and be required to pay all expenses to repair any and all of the rescue station structural maintenance needs to bring it to code, pay the Rescue Unit’s legal fees, and award punitive damages as the court deems appropriate.

A trial on the matter is tentatively set to commence on Jan. 9.

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