Brunswick residents appealing Mere Point decision

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BRUNSWICK — Residents who sued the town over its decision to sell coastal property at 946 Mere Point Road are appealing an Aug. 10 Superior Court ruling in the town’s favor.

Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government initially said Aug. 15 it would not appeal, citing limited financial resources. But the group said on Tuesday it has raised the money necessary to contest the decision before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Attorney David Lourie filed the appeal Aug. 29.

If it is granted, the supreme court will consider whether the lower court erred in affirming the Town Council’s right to reject the plaintiffs’ petition to make the tax-acquired land a park. The town sold the property in June to a California couple.

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That ruling also said the council should have held a public hearing on the petition, which sought to overturn the council’s September 2016 vote to sell the tax-acquired property.

Plaintiffs said the petition was triggered by what was seen as the council spurning the public’s desire for greater access to the town’s 62 miles of waterfront, most of which is under private ownership.

At the time, the council also faced pressure from abutters who fought the prospect of a park in their neighborhood, and residents who wanted the valuable lot put back on the tax rolls.

Petitioners went on to collect over 1,100 signatures to put the park question to referendum. They said they felt further dismissed by the council when the body rejected the petition on the opinion of the town’s lawyer, who said there is no legal pathway in the Town Charter to overturn a council order.

In response, residents sued last February.

In a statement Tuesday, plaintiffs said their appeal goes “far beyond the council’s decision to sell the Mere Point land.”

“A very basic principle of democracy is at stake,” Sockna Dice said, repeating a claim that the decision over the fate of property should have rested with the public, given its level of public interest.

Even without the appeal, public discussion of the Mere Point property has not paused.

The council will hold a public hearing Sept. 5 on whether to use the remaining $440,000 of funds from the June sale to offset property tax relief — a discussion councilors expect will be politically fraught because the money was originally earmarked to improve public waterfront access.

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