2016-11-03 / News

Saco River Market move is cancelled, space sought

By Anthony Aloisio
Staff Writer

SACO/BIDDEFORD – Saco River Market’s move to downtown Biddeford has been cancelled after it was discovered that its land use would violate Biddeford’s zoning ordinance.

As reported in the Courier’s Oct. 27 issue, the market had planned to move to 18 ½ Crescent St. in Biddeford from 110 Main St., on Saco Island in Saco. The market did set up at Crescent Street on Oct. 29, but it will not continue there, and instead will set up temporarily at the Pepperell Center Event Space, 40 Main St. in Biddeford, starting Nov. 5.

“I think we’ve got (the event space) booked for November- December,” said Irene Lim, president of the market’s steering committee.

Lim said that no one expected zoning to be an issue for Crescent Street. According to Lim, she and others observed the uses surrounding the location and it appeared that the market would be appropriate.

“It didn’t really hit our radar,” Lim said. “When we went to get the permit we thought it was a pro forma affair.”

“We were very surprised and disappointed when we learned that the Market wasn’t able to remain in our building,” wrote the Rev. Shirley Bowen, executive director of Seeds of Hope, which leases the building, “because the house just beside us had previously been used for retail sales.”

“We appreciate that the market was given the opportunity to be open that one Saturday,” Bowen continued, “since many had already set up and it helped us recoup some of the financial outlay we made in preparing the space for the Market.”

Lim said that she did explore asking for a zoning amendment that would allow the market to stay at Crescent Street.

“We all loved the church,” Lim said. “I did bring (an amendment) up with Roby (Fecteau, Biddeford code enforcement director). He seemed to think that that was not even possible.”

“Eighteen Crescent Street is in (an) MSRD 2 zone, which does not allow retail,” Fecteau wrote in an email to the Courier. “That said, this proposed use is not allowed.”

“The codes office does not and cannot allow special amendments to the zoning ordinance,” Fecteau continued. “It would have to be brought to the planning board, then to the city council in order to change what’s allowed in MSRD 2.”

“That is something the market will not have the time and expertise to go through,” Lim wrote in an email to the Courier, regarding a zoning change.

Regarding the market’s temporary home at the Pepperell Center, Lim said it’s good, but has its problems.

“It’s great from the customers’ point of view,” Lim said. “The problem is for the vendors, they can’t leave their setup there.”

“It’s difficult because they will need to unload and reload all their stuff,” Lim continued.

Lim added that the location did offer some storage space, which she said might mitigate that difficulty. She also added that parking might be an issue at the Pepperell Center.

Saco River Market is not alone in its search for a new home.

“The city of Biddeford, Heart of Biddeford, and the people at the mill, they were very set to helping us find a new space,” Lim said.

In an email to Lim and to the Courier, James Jasper of the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said they were “actively looking” for possible locations for the market.

Contact Staff Writer Anthony Aloisio at news@inthecourier.com.

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