ROBERT JARRATT reads aloud to the Brunswick Town Council a petition seeking to make a public park at 946 Mere Point Road in Brunswick in this 2016 photo. The council ended up selling the land, rendering a case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court against the town moot. TIMES RECORD FILE PHOTO

ROBERT JARRATT reads aloud to the Brunswick Town Council a petition seeking to make a public park at 946 Mere Point Road in Brunswick in this 2016 photo. The council ended up selling the land, rendering a case before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court against the town moot. TIMES RECORD FILE PHOTO

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 roll. 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, some 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, 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.

That 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 Thursday, noting the entire issue was moot citing the same reasons as the lower court, without addressing the question of a charter violation.

Mere Point property

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 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.”

“Ultimately, the basis for the court ruling was that, by the time the case was ready to be decided, the property was already sold. So it became moot,” he said. “The petition wasn’t going to have any actual effect.”

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

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