BRUNSWICK — Petitioners hoping to reverse the Town Council’s decision to sell town-acquired coastal property at 946 Mere Point Road have asked the council to stop working toward a sale until a possible referendum next June.
The referendum would let voters decide whether to make the property a park, an idea that was opposed by neighborhood residents and narrowly rejected by the council in September.
To consider their request, the council first needs to resolve whether the petition is legal. The town’s attorney has already said the document lacks a legal basis in the Town Charter, which does not include a process to reverse an executive order.
But legal or not, Chairwoman Sarah Brayman said she prefers that the council be “respectful of the public” by at least considering and possibly voting on the petition. The petition has attracted more than 1,000 signatures, according to petitioner Sockna Dice.
“It is my preference that the council weigh in if the petition gets delivered and verified” by the clerk, Brayman said Dec. 9.
Brayman’s preference suggests it is likely the petition will get to the council, because she and Town Manager John Eldridge usually compose the council agenda. Agendas can be adjusted by a majority vote at the start of each council meeting.
Before the petition goes to the council, however, the clerk’s office must verify that the signatures are from registered Brunswick voters.
Dice, who asked the council to delay taking action on the land sale at a Dec. 5 meeting, said the group has collected more than enough signatures.
Under the Town Charter, petitions need signatures from at least 5 percent of the town’s registered voters (based on the day the petition is issued) – in this case, just under 900 voters.
However, Dice said on Monday that the group will gather another 50 or so names “as a cushion” before submitting the petition.
At the council meeting, Dice also urged councilors not to interpret the petition as a sign of disrespect.
“Our effort is not intended in any way to disrespect the council’s authority,” she said. “I know that you had a good, open public process.”
The town devoted two meetings in September to the matter – the first of which lasted over four hours – and heard public comment from more than 20 residents.
Even so, Dice maintains that the public should get to make the decision, given its importance to the town. Dice, like the rest of the petitioners, believes that the 4-acre property should become a park, which would increase public access to the coast.
Since the council decided to sell the property in September, it has cleared the title and is now selecting a real estate broker.
Heeding the petitioners’ request to temporarily stop the process wouldn’t necessarily disrupt the town’s process for selling the property.
Eldridge acknowledged in an email Dec. 9 that the property would be more likely to sell in the warmer months, an opinion also shared by Brayman and Dice.
The wooded parcel at 946 Mere Point Road, Brunswick, seen from the water.