An algae bloom clouds the water in Maquoit Bay this summer. Algae blooms resulted in a four-acre mass clam death this summer, according to Brunswick Coastal Resource Manager Dan Devereaux. Photo by Glenn Michaels

The Brunswick Town Council is working toward multimillion-dollar deal to purchase land located partially within the Maquoit Bay Watershed from a developer after hundreds of locals pushed back against a proposed large-scale housing project, fearing it would harm an already struggling ecosystem.

After extending its October moratorium on development in the watershed to the maximum 180 days allowed under state law, the Council announced the town has negotiated a deal to buy a 283-acre parcel from Mere Point Development LLC. The Councilors unanimously voted to hold a public hearing on Nov. 21 to solicit feedback on the purchase, which would cost an estimated $3.8 million.

“It is a lot of money; let’s face it,” said District 1 Councilor David Watson. “But we’re looking at 25, 50 years down the road. Our future.”

Last month, the Council enacted a 50-day emergency moratorium on development projects locate within the triangular area bordered by Maquoit Road, Mere Point Road and Rossmore Road. The move came two weeks after Brunswick Coastal Resource Manager Dan Devereaux told the Council that runoff from private lawns was likely partly responsible for the deaths of four acres of softshell clams off the town’s coast this summer.

Major developments, including a proposed 900-unit housing project from Mere Point Development LLC that would have fallen partially in the watershed, could threaten the town’s $13 million shellfish industry, Devereaux warned.

“Any large-scale development that would consume hundreds of acres in the watershed could very well contribute to nitrogen loading and push us over that tipping point,” he said. “Because we’re close right now.”


An algae bloom pulls the oxygen out of Maquoit Bay, making it difficult for shellfish and other aquatic life to survive. Photo by Glenn Michaels

Nearly 20 residents spoke in favor of the moratorium Monday evening, joining hundreds more supporters who have sent letters to the Council in recent weeks, according to Council Chair Jim Mason. Many shared their own experiences with Maquoit Bay or discussed their children’s relationship with Brunswick’s outdoors. Two speakers compared themselves to Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax,” a character who “speaks for the trees.”

“It’s really important that we keep that tradition of stewardship for the natural part of our community,” said resident Baxter Worthing. “I can’t help but feel that that’s so much more important than any housing development ever could be.”

Council members said the moratorium will give the town time to revamp coastal zoning codes in order to protect the bay.

After unanimously voting to extend the moratorium, the Town Council introduced its plan to buy the 283-acre property from Mere Point Development LLC. According to Town Manager John Eldridge, Brunswick and the developer have agreed on a $3.8 million purchase price that covers the cost of the land, as well as due-diligence costs and other expenses the business incurred while exploring development.

The deal would not preclude future housing development on the land, according to Mason.

“There are still developmental needs for housing,” he said. “But we want to know that it matches the sustainable goals that we have all talked about tonight, and we can only do that with a certain amount of control and a certain amount of time.”

The Town Council will host a public hearing on Nov. 21 before considering an ordinance authorizing the acquisition and funding of the purchase. Brunswick could execute the deal agreement as soon as 30 days later, according to Eldridge.

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