Legal Rights At Seacoast Shores - Letter

With some amusement, I read the report of the possible sale of rights-of-way and beach by the Seacoast Shores Association. When I was in law school more than 40 years ago, our real property professor taught us that the ownership of real estate was like a bundle of sticks. One could own and retain the whole bundle, or convey individual sticks (parts of the whole) such as mortgage, mineral rights, various easements, sand rights, et cetera. He also taught us that, under the law, an owner could not convey more than he owned.

As a resident of Seacoast Shores since 1955, and one who has done extensive title research regarding the peninsula, I know that, although the Seacoast Shores Association owns the underlying fee in some of the rights-of-way and the beach, every resident of the more than 900 homes in the neighborhood has the right to use every right-of-way and recreation area shown on the original plans of the development. Said plans are on record at the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds.

Any prospective purchaser of a right-of-way or beach in Seacoast Shores should understand that such acquired ownership would still be subservient to the rights of easement (access) of every resident of Seacoast Shores, whether or not a member of the association. In this case, so-called “ownership” is a poor bargain in that the new owner will receive future real estate tax bills for the property, and more importantly, a possible liability in the event that anyone is injured on the right-of-way. Insurance against such potential liability and lawsuit is not likely to be inexpensive in the current social climate.

In my opinion, if and when the directors of the Seacoast Shores Association adequately understand why most residents choose not to be members, they will be in a better position to carry out their responsibilities.

In any event, rights of easement now held by every resident of Seacoast Shores cannot be lost merely by a change in title ownership of any right-of-way or recreational area. In fact, we are not in Kansas, and here in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, no one can legally deny the rights of access to the water that all of the residents of Seacoast Shores now possess. Otherwise, what do you know about class action suits and sleeping dogs?

Winnifred Woods
Seacoast Shores Boulevard
East Falmouth

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