Thursday, September 15, 2005

Editorial: Respect others’ land

Published in the Current

CAPE ELIZABETH (Sep 15, 2005): If Paul Woods walked up his neighbor’s driveway and started clearing vegetation along her front path, she would be livid, and rightly so.

But that is, effectively, what the Broad Cove Association has done to Woods, as we learn on Page 1.

Wednesday morning, a worker showed up on Woods’s land, saying he had been hired by the association to clear some vegetation along a path Woods owns.

The path crosses an easement that is in dispute, with the association claiming all neighborhood homeowners have a right to cross Woods’s property to get to Maxwell Point Beach, also called “Secret Beach,” and Woods saying just a few families have that right.

Lawyers are already involved, the police say a court will have to resolve it, and the association is raising money for a legal battle. The language and drawings in decades-old subdivision plans are being dug out and scrutinized.

It’s true that Woods owns the land. It’s also true that neighborhood residents have been using the path and the beach for years, and have kept the path clear of brush and debris. The permission granted by the easement appears clear to both parties, though in different ways.

But it’s Woods’s land, and he is entitled to protect it. More than that, he must defend his rights against outside claims or risk losing them in a dispute just like this one.

Everyone in the neighborhood – and certainly everyone involved in the association – knows the property is in dispute, and everyone is waiting for someone to sue someone else, to get this disagreement where it belongs: in front of a judge.

But in the meantime the neighborhood association is demonstrating disrespect for the same property rights its members say they are defending.

The association has passed out flyers urging neighbors to continue using the disputed pathway, and has now sent a workman to do maintenance on it. That’s outrageous. The neighbors should respect Woods’s rights as the owner of the property, and not use it until this case is sorted out in court.

Let them retire

It would be easy to dismiss the concerns of Cape Elizabeth Police Officers Vaughn Dyer and Allen Westberry, if they hadn’t each spent 30 years on the force.

The two men, and their fellow officers, sergeants and dispatchers, want a better retirement package included in the contract now being negotiated with the town. The town has offered to increase from 7 percent to 10 percent its contribution of an officer’s pay to a private retirement account, while the officers want a guaranteed two-thirds pension after 25 years of service, no matter how old they are.

Dyer and Westberry – one 58 with a bum knee and the other 64, a triple-bypass patient last summer now waiting for Medicare to kick in before he retires – are prime examples of why police officers should have a different retirement package than other municipal workers.

They are both smart, capable, articulate men. And if they had any other job, they should be encouraged to keep it, bringing their experience and passion for the work to other, younger co-workers.

But to ask a man with arthritis in both knees, or one with three arterial bypasses, to run after a suspect – whether a teen escaping a party in the woods or a drunk driver whose car leaves the road – is ridiculous.

The police union contends that while the first three years of the new retirement plan would be more expensive for Cape taxpayers than what the town has offered, after that the cost would be lower than the town’s offer. The union has also offered to help offset the cost for those first three years, by giving up cost-of-living increases.

For the long term, whether considering the town’s finances or the physical state of its police officers, letting police officers retire with pensions after 25 years – no matter their age – makes good sense.

Jeff Inglis, editor