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Brunswick is purchasing nearly 300 acres to help protect Maquoit Bay

Tyler Niven
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
Tyler Niven pilots a boat through a vast array of floating crates at a Mere Point Oyster Co. farm on Maquoit Bay, Sunday, June 12, 2022, in Brunswick, Maine. Maine is producing more oysters than ever due to a growing number of shellfish farms that have launched off its coast in recent years. The state's 2021 oyster harvest was the largest and most valuable in its history, according to recent data from the Department of Marine Resources in Maine.

Brunswick town councilors have unanimously voted to acquire nearly 300 acres of land near Maquoit Bay as a way to protect the local environment.

The move comes less than a month after the town extended a development moratorium in the Maquoit Bay watershed, following a softshell clam die-off this summer that city staff say that was linked to warmer weather and nutrient runoff.

Staff have warned large-scale development could lead to even more runoff and threaten the local shellfish industry.

The town will pay $3.8 million for the land, where developers had been considering building a 900-unit apartment complex.

Councilor Kathy Wilson says the purchase is an investment in the town's future.

"The decisions we make are not going to be just for us, but for all future generations that live in Brunswick, and will come to Brunswick," she said.

Angela Twitchell, with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust, said the purchase would offer an opportunity to still potentially build on the land, but also protect the watershed and ecosystem.

"And we also will support targeted development that meets the very real affordable and mid-range housing needs of the community," Twitchell said.

While the town had no set plans for the area, several councilors raised the possibility of a combination of land conservation and affordable housing development.

Officials expect to complete the deal by the end of the year.