The Friends of Martinsville Beach has appealed a judge’s decision that the public has no right to use this broad, sandy crescent at the end of a private road.
In late April, Knox County Superior Court judge Joyce Wheeler concluded that beach owners Amy and David Morey and John Hupper had the right to exclude the public because prior use was by permission.
The Friends group gathered 26 sworn statements from people who formerly used the beach without first seeking permission. The late Dorothy Hupper, matriarch of the Hupper clan that owned most of Martinsville Beach, traditionally allowed such use. Four years ago her son John, a New York lawyer, and the Moreys — Martinsville residents — blocked private road access to the beach with an electronic gate. David Morey, an antiques dealer and published historian, has in the past indicated he wanted to sell lots along the beach to help pay for the purchase of waterfront property abutting the Morey homestead. The Moreys were apparently concerned the value of those lots would be diminished if public use continued. The lots — once advertised at $750,000 and $850,000 — have reportedly not been sold.
The Friends is a group of St.George residents organized to regain access to the beach, and their case has been in court for three years. After the latest ruling, the Friends board of directors voted unanimously in May to file an appeal, said Sandy Yakovenko, board chairman.
“They never expected us to go as far as we did,” she said. “If nothing else, we have proved ourselves a formidable and credible group, working for the welfare of the community.”
Yakovenko said Judge Wheeler effectively denied the Friends “their day in court.” The motion for summary judgment, granted by Wheeler, was sought by Hupper and the Moreys.
So far, St.George town officials have steered clear of involvement with the Martinsville Beach case, although privately they acknowledge the need to protect public access to the waterfront.
To date, the St.George board of selectmen has not taken any public position or action regarding the beach.