Former owner seeks land at center of Brunswick coastal access debate

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BRUNSWICK — The former owner of a shore-front property the town is considering as a potential new public access point wants his land back.

Richard Nudd, of Walpole, Massachusetts, wrote to Town Manager John Eldridge July 12 asking if he could still acquire the property at 946 Mere Point Road.

The town foreclosed on the parcel in 2011, after Nudd neglected to pay property taxes since 2008, according to data from the manager’s office. Eldridge said Nudd owes about $65,000 in back taxes.

In the time since, the Town Council has considered turning the land into a public coastal access point, voting June 20 to put a 60-day hold on the property to vet its potential.

The issue has drawn people out on both sides: opponents of a new public park, many of them Mere Point residents, as well as supporters of public access, have been vocal at multiple meetings.

The council’s hold means councilors must decide whether Nudd has the ability to buy the property back, Eldridge explained Monday, July 18. At the end of the vetting period, they can either vote to move forward with a public option, or allow the parcel to be sold back to Nudd.

Although the council did not formally discuss the letter at its July 18 meeting, Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman afterwards said she is skeptical about about why, after six years of virtually no communication with the town, Nudd is reaching out.

Councilor Steve Walker had similar feelings Wednesday. “I thought the timing was curious,” he said. “The town’s been trying to find this gentleman for years without contact.”

“Hopefully the process can continue in the way we’ve laid out,” he added. “(But) if (Nudd’s) serious … then you know I certainly want to work with him as well.”

In his letter, Nudd says he stopped paying taxes on the land after he fell on hard times.

He inherited the family vacation property after his mother died in 2004, he wrote. He said he built the house with his father in the 1970s when he was on leave from the U.S. Navy. The house has since fallen into disarray, and is sometimes inhabited by squatters.

“After I inherited the property it was not long before I could no longer afford the taxes,” he said. He was between jobs in 2008 and 2011, he said, and this, along with the tax burden, “left me completely distraught.” He then lost his home in Massachusetts, and stopped receiving the notices sent to him by the town.

“My mind was … in such a state that I stopped caring,” he said.

But he said he is now receiving “better advice” and “(has) the ability to pay whatever back taxes are owed.”

Much of that advice is coming from Andre Duchette, a Brunswick resident and real estate attorney at Taylor, McCormack & Frame in Portland. Nudd lists Duchette as a contact at the bottom of his letter.

But in a phone interview Wednesday, Duchette said he is not officially representing Nudd in the matter. He also said he is not representing any other interested parties in what he called a “hot-button issue,” but reached out to Nudd out of personal interest.

“I was curious about why the town has been sitting on the property for so long,” he said.

Duchette also said that much of his work revolves around the property tax burden in Maine, and Nudd’s case “kind of falls in line with that same old story we hear relative to shore-front property that’s held by family members, and after a while, can no longer afford the taxes.”

“I think there’s more going on here,” he said.

Duchette added that he has a personal bias about whether the land should become public.

“Brunswick has a lot of public access points, and I think that gets lost in this whole message,” he said. “I would love to see the town of Brunswick use what revenue they have … (to) essentially improve those various public access points, whether it’s on the river, or whether it’s on the ocean, or whether it’s inland,” he said.

Duchette said he will continue to help Nudd in his goal to reacquire the property. In terms of the hefty tax bill, “one of the objectives will be figuring out how to pay that back,” he said.

In the meantime, town officials, committee members, staff, and members of the public have conducted two site walks on the Mere Point property.

The Recreation Commission was set to discuss the property Wednesday evening, and the Planning Board is scheduled to discuss its recommendation about the property to the council at its next meeting July 26.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

The wooded parcel at 946 Mere Point Road, Brunswick, seen from the water.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Chew H Bird

    It will be very interesting to see whether Brunswick, which raises taxes every year, wants the tax revenue from the property or if the people responsible for raising the costs of living in Brunswick come out on top…

  • farmertom2

    Forget the supposed minor tax revenue, and keep the parcel and open it to the public. That’s in the public interest. The guy owed taxes for YEARS not just a few months, not just one year.

    • Chew H Bird

      Brunswick perpetually raise taxes because Brunswick has a spending problem. The tax revenue could be utilized to expand the capabilities of the 2 million dollar boat launch facility less than half a mile away that already has picnic tables, rest rooms, plenty of parking, and a dock. Why replicate picnic tables and parking on a small parcel with only half tide access to water and a steep embankment? Why expend additional dollars for such a small location that is certain to cost additional legal fees since the neighbors will fight it? Why not invest the funds in the boat launch facility that is a first class location and within easy walking distance of this small parcel?

      The seizure of property that has unpaid taxes should be, (in my opinion), an act of last resort. If the defaulting taxpayer is able to step up and work out a deal that should, (again my opinion), be the priority unless Brunswick wishes to establish a precedent of seizing property from people who have fallen on hard times as their normal way of conducting business with their citizens.

      • disqus_10tRirSPD4

        And Steve Walker stated on TV that no one envisions anything more than a small gravel parking lot and some picnic tables so people can read the newspaper by the water and have a picnic. They already can do that at MP Boat Ramp that’s about 3/4 of a mile away. Taking the property off the tax rolls will be a conscious choice to further raise taxes on all Brunswick property owners. And that is on top of the nearly 3.5% increase we already face.

        • Chew H Bird

          So Mr. Walker wants to give up the back 65k (and ongoing tax revenue), for a gravel parking lot with a few picnic tables when the boat launch is half a mile away? That type of thinking is why we are choosing between Hillary and Trump, (complete lack of logic and common sense).

  • Barbara Fisco

    People aren’t going to “sit at a picnic table and read the newspaper” ….hahahaha! There are going to be plenty of noisey, nosey, inconsiderate, self-entitled slobs running around, driving around, doing all sorts of things. I don’t live anywhere near there but if I did I would be against this idea of sticking a public park in the middle of a place that was private when people bought their homes. Anyhow, wouldn’t it be better for the town to have someone on the land paying taxes, rather
    than the town shelling out more (taxpayer dollars) money for the creation and up-keep of this park?

    • farmertom2

      No

      • Chew H Bird

        Really? If I take the position of a standard Brunswick liberal I would try and collect the 65k in back taxes and use it to hire an entry level; teacher then the following year use the hire to justify raising the school budget… Think of the children.

      • disqus_10tRirSPD4

        So you WANT the town to raise everyone’s property taxes then, correct? Because that’s the end result of this if it’s turned into a public access place.

        • farmertom2

          Actually, no. The delta is trivial enough that there wouldn’t be any effect whatsoever on the mill rate.

          • disqus_10tRirSPD4

            It’s yet ANOTHER property removed from the tax rolls and would increase EVERY property owner’s taxes. Math isn’t your strong suit I suspect.

          • farmertom2

            Incorrect on both counts.

          • disqus_10tRirSPD4

            Taking a property off the tax rolls creates LESS revenue for the town. That shortfall is made up by increasing every other property owners taxes. I repeat — math isn’t something you comprehend.

          • farmertom2

            The amount matters and the amount is too small to affect the tax rates.

          • Chew H Bird

            Even if your argument is correct (it is not), the concept of giving up back revenue, reducing future revenue, and “investing” in an area that will likely see very little use (because half a mile away is a beautiful facility) is akin to buying a product, putting it on a shelf in a closet, and never using it just to have possession of it. This mentality is borderline nutty in my opinion and our town should start focusing on improvements that help everyone who lives here, and that includes making intelligent choices that provide maximum benefit at minimum cost (both initial and ongoing).

  • Jason Coombs

    On the flip side, it enhances the towns image by having more public water access, meaning that people looking at property in Brunswick may like the idea and be influenced to purchase a home here. This would also make another, possibly multiple source tax revenue stream.

    • Chew H Bird

      The image of a gravel parking lot, a few picnic tables, and mudflats does nothing for the town’s image. Imagine the disappointment of tourists? It would be far wiser to expand the capabilities of the existing boat launch half a mile away than to simply be able to add another property to the total number of public access locations.