On Monday, Brunswick Town Council voted (7-2) against a citizens’ petition that called for the town to hold a referendum on whether to reverse the council’s previous decision to sell a waterfront property on Mere Point Road. The petition proposed that the property be converted into a community park in an effort to preserve public access to the coastline. The petition gathered over 1,100 signatures, the most in town history.

Brunswick will move forward with the sale of the property, as the council originally decided in a contentious 5-4 vote last September. The town had acquired the property last year after its previous owners failed to pay property taxes for nearly a decade. 

Soxna Dice, a principal organizer speaking on behalf of the petitioners, feared for the town’s loss of public waterfront access. At the town meeting on Monday, she argued that a park at Mere Point would be accessible for all citizens, such as school groups on field trips, clammers and the elderly. According to Councilor Stephen Walker, there is currently scarce public access to the waterfront for Brunswick residents.

Though questions were raised concerning the council’s legal obligation to meet the petition’s demands, the council’s major concerns included the cost of converting the property into a park as well as the quality of the property itself and its accessibility for the elderly.

During its deliberation, the town council considered the merits of the property as a public park. Objectors found contention with the potential cost to the town. Not only would Brunswick be unable to collect the tax revenue on the waterfront property, but the town would also be obligated to front the costs to convert the land into an accessible park. According to Dice, the petitioners did not propose a budget for the park, arguing that that responsibility would fall to the town if the referendum passed.  

Though the Council is moving forward to sell the property, councilors on both sides of the vote expressed commitment to expanding public access to the waterfront in the future.