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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council is expected to take action on a petition to make the coastal property at 946 Mere Point Road a public park, according to the council chairwoman.
Although the town attorney had previously questioned the petition’s legality, “the petitioners are entitled to some response from council,” Chairwoman Alison Harris said Monday.
The town clerk is in the process of verifying more than 1,100 signatures on the petition, which was submitted submitted Friday, Jan. 27. The petition would reverse the council’s 5-4 decision last September to sell the property.
Attorney Stephen Langsdorf said in an email Monday that the council is not obligated to act on the petition because the Town Charter does not outline a way to undo an executive action by the council through a petition process.
However, “out of respect for the process, (the council) will decide whether to hold (a) public hearing,” he said.
Langsdorf clarified that usually, the signatures would need to be verified before the petition went before the council, “but in this case due to the dubious legality of the process it makes sense for the council to decide if anything else needs to be done first,” he said.
If councilors decide to take action on the petition – either by adopting the proposed ordinance, or setting a referendum – Langsdorf said they need to schedule a public hearing to be held within 30 days of when the petition was submitted on Jan. 27.
Action on the petition could take place as soon as the next meeting on Monday, Feb. 6. From that point, the council has another 30 days to enact the ordinance or put the decision to a vote.
The petition urges the council to set the referendum for the regularly scheduled election in June.
In a statement accompanying the petition, petitioner Tony Yuodsnukis said “when this many Brunswick voters want to have a say on an issue, it seems like the Town Council should respect the wishes of their constituents.”
“The voters of Brunswick turned out in droves to support a public park with ocean bay access for clamming and recreation,” added petitioner Sockna Dice, referring to the number of residents who spoke over the summer in favor the creating the park.
But the proposed park drew strong opposition, too, especially from neighbors of the property; at least one neighbor has already condemned the petition in a open letter to the council last November.
Meanwhile, Town Manager John Eldridge said Monday the town is still talking to brokers about selling the property. As to whether the petition will stall that process, Eldridge said it depends on what the council does.
He added that the council still needs to decide whether to place an easement on the property for clammers to access the waterfront, consideration of which had been a stipulation of the September vote.
The wooded parcel at 946 Mere Point Road in Brunswick as viewed from from the water. A petition seeks to overturn a Town Council decision to sell the property, and instead create a public park.