BRUNSWICK — After a failed attempt to make property at 946 Mere Point Road a public park, a divided Town Council voted last week to sell the land.

The 5-4 decision prompted at least one councilor to question the integrity of some of his colleagues.

The council also voted to allocate revenue from the sale to maintaining the town’s other public-access points. 

The discussion about the Mere Point property contrasted with the atmosphere at the council’s last meeting, where an attorney was accused of “bamboozling” the council and appearing under false pretenses.

Councilor Suzan Wilson attempted to lower the stakes of the decision to sell by saying whatever the final outcome was, it wouldn’t “be the end of the world” for either side.

But the amount of public interest in the fate of the property — councilors reported receiving an unprecedented 100 or so emails from constituents after tabling the issue Sept. 6 — suggests the outcome matters to the town.

Wilson and Councilors David Watson, John Perreault, Alison Harris and Kathy Wilson voted to sell; Councilors Steve Walker, Dan Harris, Jane Millet and Chairwoman Sarah Brayman were opposed.

After the vote, Walker said, “I’m a little ashamed to serve on a council where discussion of water access has been coined an annoyance.”

He also pointed out that an online petition in favor of creating access had received nearly 250 signatures, although Perreault said the number was much lower when signatures from nonresidents were subtracted.

Walker, the council’s most vocal advocate for greater public access to the water, initially had hoped the town would retain the property and create a stakeholders group that would include abutters, most of whom were adamantly opposed to the idea of a pocket park in their neighborhood.

Walker also hoped to put the revenue, minus the nearly $65,000 of back taxes owed on the property, toward coastal access sites. 

But after his initial motion failed, he floated the idea of putting the decision to a Nov. 8 “advisory referendum vote,” but the idea did not gain traction.

Councilor Alison Harris began deliberations with an appeal for objectivity. In her argument for selling the property, she drew attention to the town’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan, which lists “expanding public access to water” as an objective, although it isn’t ranked as a “key” objective, like education or bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Walker, meanwhile, cited data showing that of Brunswick’s 61 miles of coastline, only 7 miles are not hugged by “hundreds of feet of mud flats,” and most of that is built on private property.

He said the Mere Point property, which falls within those 7 miles, is a rare opportunity for the town to develop a park on property it already owns; for the town to purchase a comparable property would cost “millions,” he said.

“Future generations are going to consider this a poor decision from this council if the council gives up this opportunity,” he said.

Brayman agreed, saying the council should consider “what kind of town we want to be.”

But most councilors disagreed with the perceived merits of the property. Watson and Kathy Wilson said the embankment leading down to the water is too steep for easy access to the ocean, especially for older residents and the disabled.

Suzan Wilson, a liaison to the marine resources committee, said the best use of the land would be putting it back on the tax rolls.

Councilors will discuss at a later date how the town will sell the property. In addition to putting the revenue toward coastal access, they voted to grant an easement to access a gravesite on the parcel, as well as consider a right of way for clammers to access the property’s 380 square feet of shorefront mud flats.

In a phone interview a day after the vote, Walker said he was not surprised by the outcome.

“I think this was an example of old-time Brunswick politics at its worst,” he said. Walker did not name names, but he said a block of councilors had been heavily lobbied to vote against a park since the idea was first proposed.

“When I was elected to District 2,” he said, “I sought not just to serve the affluent and well-connected, but the people of Brunswick. Unfortunately, after last night, I don’t feel that every councilor feels that is their job.”


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