Brunswick council balks at endorsing plan for former Navy housing

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BRUNSWICK — Uncomfortable with the idea of endorsing a plan they had little control over, town councilors on Monday tabled a decision on disposition of former Navy housing until their next meeting.

In the interim, the Town Council is working on a new motion that would remove the word “endorsement,” which councilors found problematic.

Instead, they will offer their support for community goals – increased home ownership, increased affordable housing and minimized negative impacts on market stability – expressed in a 2009 Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority housing study.

MRRA is seeking the town’s endorsement of a new housing plan that would govern how developer George Schott would dispose of the homes. Schott bought 702 former U.S. Navy housing units last fall and will own the land beneath them as soon as he signs an agreement with MRRA.

But MRRA won’t sign off until Brunswick and Topsham endorse the plan.

The governing bodies of both towns discussed the issue before MRRA’s annual meeting on Nov. 17, but neither has offered an endorsement.

While some town councilors were wary of endorsing the plan, they also recognized the pressing need to marry the land and the housing units so that Schott can begin to sell the homes. Until then, he can only rent them, something everyone agreed Monday was undesirable.

But making the council’s endorsement an essential step to signing the agreement made a number of councilors uncomfortable.

“I don’t want that feeling coming to me saying, either we will endorse this or I’m going to rent them out,” Councilor John Perreault said.

Councilor Suzan Wilson said she wished MRRA hadn’t put the town in that position.

“We do not have a relationship to the purchase and sale agreement,” she said. “Using it as part of the condition of finalizing the purchase and sale agreement is a little bit difficult.”

But in order to move the sale along, she proposed using the language “supporting community goals” in the final motion, and requiring Schott to update the council periodically on his progress in selling the homes.

MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque and Scott Howard, a consultant for Schott, said Wilson’s new language was a fine substitute for the word “endorsement.”

The council also set a public hearing for Dec. 5 on an ordinance that would ban the sale and use of consumer fireworks in Brunswick.

Emily Guerin can be reached at 781-3661 ext.123 or eguerin@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @guerinemily.

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