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 Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

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

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.