Easements

No Prescriptive Easement Over Registered Beach Lots That Expanded By Accretion

In an important decision for owners of waterfront property, a divided Appeals Court panel has ruled in a case of first impression that where registered land expands by accretion, the owner need not return to court to separately register the accreted land.  As a result, that land enjoys the same protection against adverse claims as the originally registered parcel.

Cape Cod beachIn Brown v. Kalicki (pdf), the plaintiffs were owners of adjoining beach lots in Harwich, Massachusetts.  The lots were registered in the 1920s and 1930s and each lot’s southern boundary was “Nantucket Sound.”

Over the ensuing decades, accretion caused the beach to expand seaward by some 350 feet.  In 2011, the owners filed so-called “supplemental petitions” asking the Land Court to determine the sidelines of the expanded lots.  Several Harwich residents intervened in those cases and objected, claiming they had acquired a prescriptive easement to use the beach.  The status of the accreted land as registered – or not – was critical,

SJC Keeps Bright-Line Test for Overloading of Easements

In its recent decision in Taylor v. Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission (pdf), the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) put the brakes on a trend toward eliminating bright lines in the enforcement of easement rights.

The Facts

The case involved a nature preserve on Martha’s Vineyard encompassing the famed Gay Head cliffs (pictured).  The Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Commission (Land Bank), which owns and manages the preserve, has an easement over the grounds of a nearby inn owned by Taylor Realty Trust (Trust), connected to the equally famed singing Taylor family.  In 2010 the Land Bank created a looped hiking trail that runs across the Trust’s property onto three Land Bank-owned lots that are benefited by the easement and then continues onto a fourth Land Bank-owned lot that is not benefited.

The Land Court Case

The Trust, invoking the black-letter rule that an easement can’t be used to benefit land