Brunswick council gets Planning Board's opinion on Mere Point property

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BRUNSWICK — The Planning Board on Tuesday approved a formal recommendation to the Town Council for the potential use of property at 946 Mere Point Road.

The council is deciding whether to sell the 4-acre, waterfront parcel or turn it into a public park.

Rather than endorse a specific outcome, the Planning Board listed a set of factors councilors should consider.

The Planning Board also approved a sketch plan for the redevelopment of an existing Cumberland Farms gas station and convenience store at 190 Bath Road, in Cooks Corner.

The Mere Point Road recommendation is in keeping with the “narrow approach” the board previously said it would take.

The recommendation is based on the town’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan and zoning requirements for the Coastal Protections 1 district, where the parcel is located. If the town retains ownership, the board’s considerations can be summarized as a list of zoning regulations and permit requirements with which the town must comply.

If the council decides to sell the land, the board is asking the council to consider establishing protective covenants for a grave site and the protection of wildlife.

The recommendation is diplomatic in the context of the larger narrative surrounding the disputed property. While the Planning Board has refrained from offering its opinion, many others have not.

Neighbors have opposed the park proposal. At the Planning Board’s July 26 meeting, Heather Osterfeld of Wild Aster Lane read a letter on behalf of six abutters, who passionately expressed their dissent.

Osterfeld did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Town Councilor Steve Walker has publicly supported the park, and spoke in favor of it Tuesday, saying that “the beauty of the Planning Board is that (they) get to take the long view.”

On the phone Wednesday, Walker said he found it “encouraging” the board considered that Brunswick has little coastline available to the public. While the comments did not make their way into the formal recommendation, Walker said he took them as a hopeful sign a park would be created.

Cumberland Farms

Developers of the standalone Cumberland Farms gas station and convenience store presented their sketch plan, which seeks to replace an old Cumberland Farms station, a Papa John’s restaurant, and an AT&T store that all share the parcel.

The redevelopment is both an aesthetic and technological upgrade from the old gas station, and next in line of the old Gulf Oil gas stations that Cumberland Farms is making over.

“Aesthetics is the main thing,” Chris Tymla, the project engineer with MHF Design, said, as well as refitting the filling station with “state-of-the-art” tanks. The new station is increasing its number of filling stations to 10, and the new tanks will total 40,000 gallons in capacity.

“The site will be very similar to all the new Cumberland Farms you see everywhere,” Tymla said.

The Planning Board seemed genuinely excited over the prospect of the new building; Chairman Charles Frizzle praised the design and Cumberland Farms’ cooperation with the town.

“This does a good job of providing a more pleasing viewpoint” at the popular Cooks Corner intersection, Frizzle said.

“It’s really very attractive and functional,” board member Sandra Updegraph concurred.

Beyond its appealing aesthetics, the design of the new station was praised for the way the sidewalk plan directed pedestrians away from the busy roadway. The board felt this was especially important, given the foot traffic that makes its way down Bath Road in the direction of Brunswick Landing. As Brunswick Landing continues to boom with new businesses, the board expects to see an increase of both traffic and pedestrians in the area.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

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  • farmertom2

    There is, of course, no urgency to the matter of the property. And of course if the town keeps it and uses it as a public park, in the event that it doesn’t work out, the town would still be free to sell the land at a later date. It’s not as though the land will lose its value.

    • Chew H Bird

      The only urgency is economic… If the town wants to avoid a lawsuit from the neighbors, collect the back taxes owed, and be able to put current and future taxes in the “bank”, a decision should be made. Brunswick consistently over spends and has a horrific track record regarding real estate acquisitions. The longer the town waits to make a decision, the larger the outstanding tax deficit becomes. Legal costs also tend to rise and if the town decides to keep the property any neighborhood lawsuit will likely cost more later than it would now. The town has an obligation to efficiently manage taxpayer funds. While a decision is not “urgent” it should be made in a timely and cost effective manner.