BRUNSWICK — A state senator is planning to introduce legislation he said will resolve what could be a dangerous problem at Brunswick Landing: reckless driving.
Police currently can’t enforce traffic laws at the former U.S. Navy base because the 17 miles of roads are private property, owned by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, according to Police Capt. Mark Waltz.
“We don’t want people driving recklessly,” Waltz said, “but we can only enforce what we have the power to enforce.”
Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, said he has wanted to change that, but hasn’t been able to because MRRA didn’t have possession of Brunswick Landing until last year. He said his bill would revise a state statute to allow town, county and state police to enforce traffic on land owned by municipal corporations.
“I would have done it earlier, but we didn’t have possession,” Gerzofsky said Wednesday. “… It’s a once-in-a-lifetime, one-place, one-time issue.”
Gerzofsky also expressed concern that publicizing the existing lack of jurisdiction could encourage bad behavior at Brunswick Landing.
“People assume right now they can’t speed,” Gerzofsky said. “We don’t want to tell them things are different than that.”
Steve Levesque, MRRA executive director, said there have been a handful of instances of people speeding or engaging in reckless driving at Brunswick Landing.
“We’ve had a handful and there are people speeding on the property, so we asked the police if they can enforce (the traffic laws), and they said ‘we can’t,'” Levesque said. “We’re just trying to make it safe. We get a lot of people in the summer who ride their bicycles, walk and run.”
Although police can only respond to criminal activity other than traffic violations at Brunswick Landing right now, that doesn’t mean MRRA is completely helpless when it comes to trouble on wheels, Levesque said.
What police can do now, he said, is issue criminal trespass warnings to reckless drivers if MRRA staffers happen to witness the activity.
“It might be a rough tool to use,” Waltz agreed, “but if the base finds someone driving inappropriately, they can call us up to issue a trespass warning.”
Such warnings can become significant problems for anyone who goes to Brunswick Landing for school or work, the officer said, because a criminal trespass warning for reckless driving can lead to arrest if the recipient returns to the base.
“It’s a much more severe penalty normally right now if you drive recklessly on the base,” Waltz said. “Then you have no way to get back to your (place of) employment or school.”
Gerzofsky’s bill will not only help increase safety, he said, but also reduce problems for Brunswick Landing employees or students who behave badly behind the wheel.
Gerzofsky said his bill will also further incorporate the former base into the town.
“That’s one of the exciting parts of the bill. I’m going to be really excited to present this,” Gerzofsky said. “… A couple years from now people will remember (Brunswick Landing) as part of the town, just like it was before 1940.”
Town Manager Gary Brown said he “would prefer to see the actual proposed legislation before commenting on it,” but the town is inclined not to oppose it.
“We want to treat Brunswick Landing like most every other similar place in town,” Brown said in an e-mail, “and traffic enforcement would be consistent with that position.”
Gerzofsky said the bill doesn’t have an official number yet, but it will in a few weeks when it gets assigned to a committee. He said a bill like this should pass easily, although that’s not expected to happen until at least early spring.
If the legislation becomes law, Waltz said, Maine’s Department of Transportation will also have to issue official speed limits for roads at Brunswick Landing, where the existing limit is 25 mph.
Police currently cannot enforce traffic laws at Brunswick Landing. State Sen. Stan Gerzofsky, D-Brunswick, hopes to change that with a bill he will soon introduce.