Rales’ neighbors seek pier permit

MOUNT DESERT — No longer allowed to use their neighbor’s pier, the owners of the summer residence at 131 Peabody Drive known as The Coffeepot want to build their own.

Coffeepot LLC, owned by several members of the Pierce family, has applied for a permit from the town to construct a 100-foot permanent pier with a seasonal ramp and float. The Planning Board was to hold a public hearing on the application Wednesday evening.

The Pierces are descendants of Charles Eliot, a former president of Harvard University and an early leader in the preservation of land on Mount Desert Island for what would become Acadia National Park.

In Sept. 2015, their neighbor to the east, billionaire Mitchell Rales, filed a lawsuit against Coffeepot LLC and the owners of four other nearby properties seeking to prohibit them from using the beach and pier on his property.

Rales contended that easements conveyed with land transfers between 1883 and 1947 did not give his neighbors the right to use his property, which is held by his corporation, Peabody Land LLC.

The lawsuit apparently was prompted by summertime beach parties in 2014 and 2015 hosted by his other next-door neighbors, Alexander, Paul and Peter Goriansky. The Gorianskys also are descendants of Charles Eliot and claimed the right to use Rales’ beach and pier.

Their “wrongful parties have included loud music, fireworks, crowds, nighttime activities, alcohol and other offensive acts and disturbances,” the suit alleged.

The Pierces filed a counterclaim to Rales’ suit in Oct. 2015. It stated that when the estate of Charles Eliot conveyed ownership of The Coffeepot in 1927, the deed provided for an easement granting the owners the right to walk across a corner of what is now Rales’ property and use the beach and pier.

The counterclaim asserted that, for several decades, “Coffeepot has been passing and repassing across the Peabody property and using the [pier] as its own, all of which occurred with the knowledge and acquiescence of the owner of the Peabody property.” It asked the court to declare that The Coffeepot’s owners could continue to cross the Rales property and use the pier.

Rales and the Pierces reached a settlement in March of this year. The Pierces agreed to relinquish their right to use Rales’ pier. In exchange, Rales agreed not to oppose the construction of a pier on The Coffeepot property.

Greg Johnston, the engineer for the Pierces’ pier project, wrote in the permit application that the purpose is to “replace water access to a family which has enjoyed and benefitted from all aspects of being on the water, including fishing, sailing, rowing and power boating.”

“The owners presently have three moorings in front of the property with no access to them,” Johnston added.

“The water side of the property contains footpaths that meander along an exposed ledge faced cliff. The rock cobble beach and bold stone face is presently inaccessible from the property. This project will allow the owners and guests of all abilities to access the shore and water from the property.”

Rales fence

Also at Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, the board was to consider Rales’ application to build a fence along the line between his property and the Pierces’. It is to be a seven-foot-high, stockade-style wood barricade.

Ordinarily, such a fence could be approved by the town’s code enforcement officer. But because a portion of the Rales fence would be within the shoreland zone, it requires Planning Board approval.

The Rales’ property is assessed for tax purposes at $15.58 million. The Pierces’ property is assessed at $3.25 million.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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