2017-06-16 / Front Page

Calif. couple buys Mere Point land

$550,000 paid for disputed property
Times Record Staff


The property at 946 Mere Point Road, the center of a dispute between the town council and residents who wanted the four-acre parcel to be a public park, sold last month for more than a half million dollars to a couple from California, according to Town Manager John Eldridge.

The waterfront land was tax-acquired by the town in 2011, and a petition was circulated last year, garnering 1,100 signatures, to put the option of creating a park with the land to a referendum.

The council narrowly voted to sell the land, and a group called Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County Superior Court in February, claiming the town council violated municipal law by failing to set a referendum vote after a petition was circulated and presented to the council.

The land was sold to Daniel and Kathryn Frost of Irvine, California, for $550,000. The deal closed Thursday. The asking price for the land was $335,000.

According to Brunswick Code Officer Jeffrey Hutchinson, the land could be divided into two parcels.

Although the civil action is pending in court, there is no way for the town to recoup the land after the sale regardless of the court’s decision. The merits of the case, whether town officials interpreted the town charter incorrectly, will still be decided on.

David Lourie, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a previous interview he will take the case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court if necessary, adding the town destroyed the right to citizens’ initiative.

The suit alleges the town’s narrow reading of the town charter has a chilling effect on citizens’ First Amendment rights to initiate an ordinance.

The thrust of the town’s argument centers around the fact that a council can act in two ways — either through an ordinance, which is an ongoing law and subject to challenge via petition; or through an order, which is a one-time action and not open to petition.

Town Attorney Stephen Langsdorf argues the decision to sell the property was an order, and therefore, not subject to be overturned by referendum. The only way for the order to be changed, he said, is for the council to voluntarily put the decision to a citizen vote, which they are not obligated to do.

Lourie said Thursday the presiding judge will either set an argument date for the parties or decide on the case based on what has been filed.


The petition

THE FOUR-ACRE waterfront land was tax-acquired by Brunswick in 2011, and a petition was circulated last year, garnering 1,100 signatures, to put the option of creating a park with the property to a referendum.

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