BRUNSWICK — In 5-4 vote that some councilors felt was rushed, the Town Council voted Monday to authorize the Town Manager to sell the hotly-disputed shorefront property at 946 Mere Point Road.
Since the council voted to sell the tax-acquired property last September – in another 5-4 vote that exactly mirrored Monday’s – the land became subject to a lawsuit over the legality of a petition that sought to reverse the decision and make the 4-acre parcel a park.
Monday’s decision, motioned by Vice Chairwoman Kathy Wilson, took place despite repeated pleas from petitioners to delay the sale until the court decides whether the council was allowed in February to ignore the petition.
It followed a 30-minute closed-door executive session, and was supported by Councilors Wilson, David Watson, John Perreault, Harris, Suzan Wilson and Chairwoman Alison Harris.
Town Manager John Elridge did not publicly identify the parties interested in buying the land, but stated in prior meetings that there has been interest in the property. It was appraised last year at approximately a quarter of a million dollars.
Plaintiffs filed a complaint in Cumberland County District Court in February under the newly formed nonprofit Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government. Attorney David Lourie submitted a written argument May 1, to which Brunswick will respond by May 31.
The lawsuit is expected to last through the summer, according to the attorneys.
The town’s attorney, Stephen Langsdorf, has argued that the petition failed to follow a legal mechanism in the Town Charter, and therefore the council was not obligated to send it to a June referendum.
But several councilors Monday night said they were concerned about moving forward with the sale until the issue is legally resolved.
“I have read the legal brief and there were some convincing parts to it,” said Councilor Jane Millett, who voted to retain the property as a park last September, but voted to reject the petition in February.
Councilors Sarah Brayman and Dan Harris agreed, indicating they preferred to see the lawsuit play out prior to making a decision; Harris said voting to authorize the sale made him “uneasy.”
When Brayman echoed Millett in saying “There’s been a big rush to sell this property,” Councilor John Perrault objected.
“It wasn’t something that was decided in a month,” he argued, noting that seven months have passed since the council originally decided to sell the land.
Councilor Steve Walker – who vocally advocated to create a park on the property and harshly criticized the decision to sell – called Monday’s vote “a slap in the face” to the 1,100 residents who signed the petition.
“I’m sorry to the residents of Brunswick and I’m kind of ashamed to be part of this action here tonight,” he said, adding that he hoped the “rushed vote will have ramifications in the voting booths in the next election.”
A view of the tax-acquired coastal property at 946 Mere Point Road from the water in Brunswick. The Town Council authorized the sale of the land May 8, despite it being the subject of an ongoing lawsuit.