Declaring the issue moot, Maine’s highest court has essentially thrown out a case against the town of Brunswick that claimed the Town Council violated its charter by not holding a hearing on creating a public park at Mere Point.

The issue stems from a failed attempt by some Brunswick residents to prevent the council from selling a piece of waterfront property. The town acquired 946 Mere Point Road in 2011 through tax foreclosure, and, after a lengthy debate, sold the land in 2017 for $350,000 in order to put the property back on the tax rolls. A California couple later purchased the property for $550,000.

Between the time the council voted to sell the land in 2016 and when the property was purchased, residents gathered signatures for a petition they hoped would force the town to create a park by establishing a new ordinance.

The council, however, took no action on the petition.

The group Brunswick Citizens for Collaborative Government sued, believing the Town Council violated its charter.

Two months after the property was sold, a ruling in Cumberland County Superior Court noted that the town erred by not holding a hearing on the proposed ordinance.

However, as the property was already sold, the court noted the issue was moot.

The court also ruled that voters could not use the town charter to override the council’s vote to sell the property.

That ruling was vacated by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday. It said the entire issue was moot, citing the same reasons as the lower court, without addressing the question of a charter violation.

The council’s decision to sell was split 5-4. While petitioners appeared concerned over the lack of public waterfront land, many Mere Point residents told the council that they had no desire to see a public park in their neighborhood.

However, the heart of the court case was whether the council acted properly.

David Lourie, the Cape Elizabeth-based attorney for the group, said Thursday that the Town Council “usurped” citizens’ rights by not calling for a public hearing.

“If I were a citizen of Brunswick, I would throw out the present council and rewrite the charter,” Lourie said. “What the council did was unjustified.”

Brunswick Town Attorney Stephen Langsdorf called that reaction “sour grapes.”

Nothing in the higher court’s ruling “suggests the town violated the charter,” he said.

John Swinconeck can be contacted at:

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