Despite opposition, Brunswick affirms welcoming posture

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BRUNSWICK — The Town Council Tuesday adopted a resolution welcoming new residents, despite opponents who said it suggests the town is becoming a sanctuary city.

Also Tuesday, councilors approved construction of a Veterans Memorial Plaza on the north end of the lower Town Mall, and scheduled a public hearing on amendments to an ordinance that would allow food vendors to keep their equipment on the mall overnight.

Councilors voted 7-1 for the “Welcoming New Residents” resolution, at the request of Councilor Jane Millett. The vote followed the council’s Feb. 5 vote to hang a banner reading “Welcome New Mainers” at Town Hall.

The resolution, which Millett said came to her from Sanctuary Brunswick, says the council “supports people without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, gender identity, ability, citizenship or immigration status.”

Councilor David Watson was opposed, and moved to specify within the document that Brunswick welcomes legal immigrants.

“I can accept this with the addition of one word, and that’s the insertion of the word ‘legal,’” Watson said. “That allows me to vote for it, but because it has the feel of welcoming illegal aliens, as a police officer I can’t condone criminal conduct.”

Resident Jim Sanoski also voiced his objections to the resolution and the “Welcome New Mainers” banner.

“I find the banner and the resolution a means toward an end of a sanctuary town, that could eventually oppose federal laws, and we’re seeing that all across the United States right now,” Sanoski said.

Councilor Kathy Wilson was among the councilors to express support for the resolution, stating that it wouldn’t change any laws and, as a gay person, she can especially appreciate the sentiment. 

“I always appreciate it, and I’ve been places where I wasn’t, but if just one person or a couple of people said ‘even though you are gay, you’re welcome here’ then I felt better,” she said. “And so when an immigrant or anybody else wants to come to Brunswick, I want them to feel that they’re welcome.”

Veterans memorial

Thomas Farrell, director of Brunswick Parks and Recreation, gave a presentation with Watson regarding the design of the Veterans Memorial Plaza. Farrell said his department engaged the services of the landscape architecture firm Richardson and Associates last fall to prepare the design.

Watson was first approached by veterans last year about installing a Purple Heart Memorial on the Mall, near the gazebo, which sparked discussion of how the existing memorial could be improved to incorporate the new addition. 

The preliminary range for construction costs is between $111,000 and $148,000, and the cost for the firm to prepare a final detailed design would be just over $14,000. The cost to date for work done is just under $6,100.

The American Legion plans to raise money to pay for the redesign, and the final design will also need approval from the Village Review Board. 

A key part of the proposal is to turn the existing veteran’s memorial 180 degrees to allow for a more visibility on the mall and a safer gathering space for patrons during events held there. 

Watson said the current location is problematic because the surrounding streets have to be closed for large events.

The redesign would also expand the current display, adding a Purple Heart memorial, a circular granite courtyard area and four surrounding trees.

Food trucks

Councilors also set a public hearing date of March 5 on ordinance amendments that would allow food vendors to leave their equipment on the mall overnight.

Discussion of the topic began on Feb. 5.

On Tuesday, Town Manager John Eldridge said following the councilors’ initial discussion, the proposed amendments were edited to accommodate some concerns.

The amendments now state, for instance, that food vendors will be able to stay on the Mall for 10 nights per season under the current fee of $1,500, but must remove their cart at least one night per week.

Ahead of Tuesday evening’s meeting, if vendors wanted to keep their cart on the Mall for more than 10 nights a season, proposed amendments stated they would need to pay an additional $200. At the request of Councilor Stephen Walker, councilors voted to increase the fee to $2,000.

Councilors also discussed electricity use by the food vendors, their responsibility to remove trash from the premises, and their responsibility to have recycling bins if they sell recyclables. 

The motion to set a public hearing passed 6-2, with Councilors James Mason and Millett opposed.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

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