Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.

— Luke 6:46-49

While I am not a particularly religious person, I could not help but think of this verse after Monday night’s Town Council meeting. Having a science background, I try to approach council issues with a solid foundation of data, research, and analysis. The town charter, policies, plans and public input received then shape my ultimate vote. But on Monday, remarkably, our Town Council rejected a rare, town-owned, coastal access site for Brunswick in a 5-4 vote. This vote, rejecting the public’s ownership of 946 Mere Point Road, appeared underlain by justifications as solid as Maquoit Bay mud.

Brunswick’s professional staff including the Director of Parks and Recreation, Marine Resource Officer, and even the Town Manager acknowledged that there was no better alternative site than 946. I produced maps demonstrating that this is the case for my fellow councilors, and provided those maps to them over a week before the meeting. I offered to contact them, answer their questions, and walk through the limitations and opportunities, parcel by parcel, of Brunswick’s coast. Not one of the ultimately opposing Councilors asked a single question or followed up in any way. At the meeting, none of the opposing Councilors offered a single plausible alternative site. The town’s three natural resource committees (Conservation, Recreation, and Marine Resources) unanimously told the council to retain 946. These are committees with members who have decades of combined experience in Brunswick water access issues.

In terms of public input, by my count the council was contacted, via e-mail or petition signatures (including the petitions of opponents), by 320 individual Brunswick citizens. I did not keep track of everyone who spoke at our council meetings, so this number would likely be higher once those who spoke or made calls to their Councilors are included. Forty-nine folks favored selling the land. Thirty-one of these are waterfront landowners on Mere Point. Two hundred and seventy-one individuals — counting each person only once, no matter how often they expressed their views — strongly supported retaining the parcel.

Despite the overwhelming support of professional and volunteer staff, our decades long history of diminishing coastal water access, and the strong majority urging support to retain this opportunity, at least some of the five hung their reasoning on a single weekday afternoon drive to our existing limited access sites, and a very contorted reading of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan. Hardly a solid basis for decision making when decades of context and documents clearly show that public access is a public priority and should not be dismissed out of hand. I can only surmise that some of our Councilors identify more closely with the interests of the small percentage of Brunswick coastal homeowners, than they do with the vast majority of Brunswick residents.

These Councilor’s determination to deny the value of this parcel to our citizens is particularly and painfully egregious and foolhardy when we consider that Brunswick’s actual investment in acquiring this parcel was a pittance of its real market value. In terms of cost and value, we will never have an opportunity like this again. Rejecting this remarkable opportunity should mean that we reject Council representatives who do not reflect our community in the future.

Thank you all for taking the time to reach out to me and the town council on this issue and future issues. Good representation relies on hearing from and listening to our constituents, but also upon the participation of Brunswick citizens in stepping up to run for office. Every Town Councilor up for reelection this November — myself included — is unopposed at the ballot box. That needs to change in years to come if we are to learn from this hard lesson, and give Brunswick the future we all deserve.

Steve Walker represents District 2 on the Brunswick Town Council.

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