2018-02-01 / News

Developer in OOB project addresses hurtles

By Grant McPherson Staff Writer

OLD ORCHARD BEACH – The developer of Saco Island will resolve outstanding issues with a project in Dunegrass Golf Club that was plagued with problems since its inception in 2013.

Bernie Saulnier, of Saulnier Development with offices in Maine and Massachusetts, purchased about six acres on Saco Island last year for $1.5 million. The final project is expected to include residential units, commercial space, a hotel, marina and continuation of the RiverWalk.

However, Old Orchard Beach Town Manager Larry Mead said Saulnier still owes the town $13,240 in taxes for three properties on Nicklaus Drive. Four single-family homes were completed on Nicklaus Drive at the end of 2016. While two homeowners have the deeds to the houses, two more are still waiting to close. Saulnier said he hopes to close on them by the end of the month.

Saulnier said the Nicklaus Drive project was delayed over lawsuits between the golf course’s previous owners, the Boutet family and its current owner, Dominic Pugliares. The town issued a stop work order in December 2015 due to disagreements of ownership for water and sewer lines on Nicklaus Drive.

“I had to spend about $15,000 on a law firm in Portland,” Saulnier said. “They helped me get the stop work orders released. All this time going by really hurts us. Then we got through it and mid-stream the lender we had on the project changed their lending structure and took a different course. Collectively a lot of things created issues that were out of our control. One thing I can say is we hung in there.”

Mead said the project is of interest to officials because the town had to intervene.

“The project has not gone smoothly obviously in terms of progress,” he said. “The town has had to be involved on a number of occasions. It has not gone well. Based on my understanding, the people occupying the houses have had their difficulties with the project.”

Saulnier said he’s up to date on property tax payments. He said he allowed homeowners to move in toward the end of 2016 despite the delays in closing. Saulnier said once the closings happens, any outstanding payments should be resolved. He said his other recent projects, Summer Winds Cottages in Old Orchard Beach and Summerscape in Wells, were finished without incident. Projects take a long time to be completed and the financing for each one is rarely the same source, he said. Saulnier estimates he spent between $300,000 and $400,000 of his own money to complete the Nicklaus Drive development.

“We’ve always got three to five projects going on whether that’s permitting, purchasing or construction,” he said. “At the end of the day I went out of pocket to take care of what I had to take care of.”

Saulnier said he expects to go before the Saco Planning Board in February for the Saco Island project and hopes to receive approval by spring.

“Saco has been fair to work with,” he said. “We’re trying to give back to the city with the RiverWalk and community space. A lot of the time we don’t have that opportunity to give something back but we have some space on this project.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com.

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