A winter view of Long Sands Beach in York. Credit: Rich Beauchesne | The York Weekly

The town of York wants to buy a good chunk of Long Sands Beach.

The town has entered into negotiations with the heirs of Roger Norton, who bought land nearly 100 years ago that includes the beach from the Cutty Sark Motel to the Sun ’n Surf Restaurant. His heirs now own that portion of the beach to the low water mark.

The Board of Selectmen Monday voted to hire a real estate appraiser at a cost of $4,000 to review the appraisal the Norton family just recently received. No dollar amount of the appraisal was mentioned.

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The issue surfaced when the town negotiated for the purchase of a small triangle of Long Beach Avenue needed to build the Long Sands Bathhouse. At that time, Selectman Todd Frederick said, “we said we should probably talk about the town acquiring the rest of the beach.”

Town Manager Steve Burns said the town has few benchmarks for considering the purchase of a beach.

“Trying to find a sale of an ocean beach is rather difficult,” he said. “We need to make sure this is a reasonable number.”

[Court gives public access to Kennebunkport beach]

“How do you monetize sand?” said Frederick.

Selectmen hired The Stanhope Group in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to review the Norton appraisal and the matter is likely to come back before the board in the next several months.

Attempts were unsuccessful to reach David Silk, an attorney with Curtis Thaxter in Portland, who is representing the Norton family.

[Maine law professor: Beaches should be public property]

The Norton heirs are hardly the only private owners of a beach, in York or in the state. Both Cape Neddick Beach and York Harbor Beach are privately owned — the harbor beach by the Hartley Mason Reservation and Stage Neck Inn, for instance.

According to a 2016 report by the Maine Sea Grant College Program and the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, only 12 percent of Maine’s beaches are in public ownership.

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