Town of Brunswick Prevails in Mere Point Road Land Dispute
PORTLAND, ME—The Maine Superior Court ruled today in favor of the Town of Brunswick, upholding the Town’s decision earlier this year to move forward with the sale of its property on Mere Point Road and to reject a petition filed to send the question of the land’s usage to a referendum vote.
In their appeal, Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government argued that they had followed the legal path for a referendum as defined by the town charter and that a public hearing should have been held following the submission of the petitions.
Brunswick’s charter states that while citizens have the right to petition for a referendum, the resulting referendum cannot be used to overturn a council order.
“The Superior Court Justice in his order fully supported the Council’s right to reject petitions which violate the Charter, but did say the town should have scheduled one more public hearing before the final decision was made,” said Preti Flaherty partner and Town of Brunswick attorney Stephen Langsdorf.
In September of 2016, the town council voted to sell the town-owned property. Following this decision, against the recommendation of town attorney Stephen Langsdorf, Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government requested petitions from the Town Clerk in an attempt to reverse that decision and hold a referendum to create a public park with the land.
“Before the petitioners even requested petitions to circulate, I advised them, as town attorney, that what they were attempting to do was in violation of the Town Charter,” said Langsdorf. “The petitioners understood my opinion and chose to move forward knowing that I would advise the Town Council that they had the right to reject the petition and not send it out for referendum election.”
Despite the advice to abandon the petition, signatures were submitted to the Town Clerk in January. At the council’s February 6 meeting, councilors rejected the petitions, voted against the proposed park, and authorized the sale of the property. The property itself was sold in June.
Langsdorf continued, “This is the outcome we anticipated as we knew that the petitioner’s interpretation of the charter was incorrect. It needs to be read as a comprehensive document. Today’s decision makes this clear moving forward.”