Brunswick residents appeal Mere Point ruling to Supreme Judicial Court

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BRUNSWICK — Residents who sued the town over its decision to sell coastal property at 946 Mere Point Road are appealing an Aug. 10 Superior Court ruling in the town’s favor.

Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government initially said Aug. 15 it would not appeal, citing limited financial resources. But the group Tuesday said it has raised the money necessary to contest the decision before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Attorney David Lourie filed the appeal Aug. 29.

If it is granted, the supreme court will consider whether the lower court erred in affirming the Town Council’s right to reject the plaintiffs’ petition to make the tax-acquired land a park. The town sold the property in June to a California couple.

That ruling also said the council should have held a public hearing on the petition, which sought to overturn the council’s Sept. 2016 vote to sell the tax-acquired property. 

Plaintiffs said the petition was triggered by what was seen as the council spurning the public’s desire for greater access to the town’s 62 miles of waterfront, most of which is under private ownership.

At the time, the council also faced pressure from abutters who fought the prospect of a park in their neighborhood, and residents who wanted the valuable lot put back on the tax rolls.

Petitioners went on to collect over 1,100 signatures to put the park question to referendum. They said they felt further dismissed by the council when the body rejected the petition on the opinion of the town’s lawyer, who said there is no legal pathway in the Town Charter to overturn a council order.

In response, residents sued last February.

In a statement Tuesday, plaintiffs said their appeal goes “far beyond the council’s decision to sell the Mere Point land.”

“A very basic principle of democracy is at stake,” Sockna Dice said, repeating a claim that the decision over the fate of property should have rested with the public, given its level of public interest.

Although even without the appeal, public discussion of the Mere Point property has not paused.

The council will hold a public hearing Sept. 5 on whether to use the remaining $440,000 of funds from the June sale to offset property tax relief — a discussion councilors expect will be politically fraught because the money was originally earmarked to improve public waterfront access.

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

Sockna Dice speaks in February on behalf of Brunswick residents who wanted the Town Council to reverse a decision to sell property at 946 Mere Point Road. The council rejected their petition, and they are now appealing a court ruling that affirmed the action.

Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or
  • Chew H Bird

    And so now that the lot is owned by a private, tax paying citizen, what exactly is to be gained by this? Brunswick’s municipal government has long ignored common sense and often turns a deaf ear to taxpayers, (the wasteful Amtrak facility, Times Record Building for example) , so this is business as usual with decades of precedent. Oh yea, remember the extended legal and antagonistic disagreements over the public water access regarding the Mere Point Boat Launch (less than a mile from the property being debated here)?

    If taxpayers want change we need to vote new people into office. We need positive change, not additional drain on town legal resources, (and taxpayer funds).

    Why don’t these fine folks who want to involved a higher level of court purchase the property and provide access to the steep clop and tidal (limited) water, and small (proposed) gravel parking lot themselves?

  • Paul Whitcomb

    If not for dedicated groups of citizens like these, the Town government would do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, including skirting referendum regulations.