Ben Ford was featured in the following news story aired July 26, 2023. WGME reported receiving 30,000 social media hits in response.
PHIPPSBURG (WGME)– A New Jersey couple, who own a cottage on Popham Beach, claims they bought and now own the dunes and beach between their neighbor and the ocean.
Richard and Sheila Tappen, who own a cottage right on Popham Beach, are suing their neighbors.
The Tappens claim they now own the sand dunes and beach in front of the Hill family’s six beachfront cottages.
“Most owners at Popham believe they own what’s in front of them.,” neighbor Clark Hill said. “But the reality is, it’s only maybe half a dozen that actually own the sand that fits in front of their cottage.”
Hill is now in danger of losing access to Popham Beach. He says Richard Tappen told him he could regain access to the beach if he paid him $30,000 each summer.
“Ultimately, the first conversation was, ‘This is now mine. And I’d like you to cease and desist or pay us money,'” Hill said.
Tom DuPont rents a cottage from the Hills.
“I don’t agree with that,” DuPont said. “Accessing the beach or traversing it, I think that should be open to everybody.”
Hill’s attorney says the Tappens paid a woman $15,000 for her interest in the land in front of their neighbor’s beachfront cottages.
“What she sold was any interest that she had in that property,” attorney Ben For said. “In our argument, it’s zero. This was not a legal transaction because, for the very simple reason, that this area is a common area.”
The suit also claims the Hill’s deck, steps, ramp, shed, boardwalk and beach path are now on the Tappen property.
“The beach should be for everyone,” Popham beachgoer Debbie Wetzel said.
The Hills have filed a counter suit in a case that could have far-reaching effects on other waterfront properties in Maine.
That includes the Forresters, who also own cottages by the Tappens.
“Even though we own these houses, if somebody sat here, or sat over there, I’m not going to say, ‘Hey move. This is our area.’ So what?” neighbor Teri Forrester said.
The Tappens could not be reached for comment. Their attorney referred us to their court filings.