OLD LYME — The new owners of property adjacent to the historic Tantummaheag Landing say they have done an extensive title search that proves the landing and associated right-of-way belongs to them rather than the town.
The landing provides access to the Connecticut River for kayaks or small craft and the right-of-way has long been used as a public space for walking.
George Frampton and Carla D’Arista, who have owned 12 and 19 Tantummaheag Road since September, say access to the landing and right-of-way will not change.
“We have always welcomed people coming down the road and we want to continue, we intend to continue to welcome them,” said Frampton by phone on Tuesday.
Frampton said he and D’Arista did a “very complete title search of the property. He said the search was compiled and given to First Selectman Tim Griswold to give to the town counsel for review.
“It’s perfectly clear from the land records that the town has no claim of ownership and has never owned the property, and has no basis for claiming it owns the property,” said Frampton.
He said the property was given to Richard Lord in the late 1600s and “has been conveyed down continuously to every owner of the property, including to us.”
Frampton said the public documents were cited from Hartford, Lyme and Old Lyme, and referenced historical archives.
“There’s quite a lot of historical information that goes along with this but the important part is the title,” he said.
Frampton emphasized that public access to the property will continue.
“We are very happy to have people continue to come and very happy to talk to the town but the legal situation is the town doesn’t own the property and there’s no public access right.”
He said the issue was not a legal fight with the town.
“I’m happy to be quoted to say we have no plans to litigate and see no reason to litigate,” he said.
At Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Griswold did not mention the title search documentation after Selectman Mary Jo Nosal raised questions about the status of Tantummaheag Landing, especially after a photo of a trailer blocking access to the right-of-way appeared on social media on July 10.
Griswold told Nosal and Selectman Chris Kerr that Frampton received a letter outlining the town’s plans to place roadway and parking signage at Tantummaheag Landing.
Nosal and Kerr expressed concern regarding whether Frampton would cooperate with the town’s plans for the signs and said the neighbors had heard Frampton say he owned the property.
“The neighbors are saying they are getting feedback from the owner that he owns that property and that it is not public property– says he has documentation,” said Nosal.
Griswold said that other than the trailer, which had since been moved, the property had been “fairly uneventful.” He said it was important to address the signage issue first and then to review the information that might dispute the town’s ownership.
When asked on Tuesday why he hadn’t shared the title search document with Nosal and Kerr, Griswold said he wanted the town attorney to analyze the document first as a strategy to avoid public outcry about the issue.
“I want to delay it and take a look at it before we splash it all over the place because I think the town attorney needs to review it before everybody goes crazy and says, ‘How could this be?” and all this stuff. And, what other aspects might there be? So I don’t want to inflame,” he said.
Griswold said that if it becomes clear that the town does not own the property, he will ask Frampton and D’Arista to agree that public access be recorded into the title on the property to ensure access will remain in perpetuity.
“If this is correct, then we would certainly appreciate having this arrangement memorialized, put it in the town records,” Griswold said. “I think it would be very important to tidy that out through a written agreement, but we’ll see where it goes.”