2018-07-12 / Front Page

Unit 91 sale expected to be final soon

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer

SACO – The closing on the sale of Unit 91 on Saco Island has been postponed. Saulnier Development, which is in negotiations to purchase the building from the city of Saco, has confirmed that the sale, originally scheduled to be finalized on July 3, will now close Aug. 1. The city of Saco obtained Unit 91 in January 2016 due to tax lien foreclosure. City Administrator Kevin Sutherland requested the postponement on behalf of the city on June 29, which was agreed upon by both parties the same day.

The 58,228 square-foot is home to condominiums overseen by Island Terrace Owners Association and consists of 41 parking spaces on the lower level and 29,115 square feet of mixed-use space on the ground floor. The sale to Saulnier Development only includes sale of the spaces and ground floor space. The price is listed on Durham Group website for $450,000 for the .43 acres. According to a press release from Saulnier Development, the company will obtain the property for $400,000.

Saulnier Development owns the adjacent 55,160-squarefoot Building 2, which houses offices, retail spaces, the offices for Saulnier Development and a deli, as well as a 6-acre plot of land across the street on the Saco River, purchased in 2017 for $1.5 million. The perpendicular land is the site of the “The Waters,” a proposed $40 million development that will include luxury condominiums, a boutique hotel, slips for boats and two soft launches for public access to the river. The project will also feature a continuation of the RiverWalk.

Saulnier Development received the amendment to the purchase agreement on June 29. In a public release that included copies of the sale agreement, Saco resident and manager of the development firm Bernie Saulnier said that while he was unsure of the cause of the delay, he understood that it likely was related to title issues.

“Owning property at Saco Island can be an adventure, with surprise legal obstacles suddenly appearing and gumming up the works. But if they want to sell it, obviously they have to deliver clear title to the property,” Saulnier said in a July 5 press release.

According to Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland, a title attorney for the sale recommended obtaining written assurances from former Unit 91 and other former lien holders prior to the sale to ensure the city can guard itself against any ambiguity in the future over ownership of the property.

“It just wasn’t looking like we would get everything in time, so we chose to postpone,” Sutherland said.

In a letter sent to Sutherland on June 19 Saulnier said while he is willing to purchase the property from the city, he only wishes to do so if that is what is best for the city and the property. In the letter Saulnier references alleged discourse among councilors over Saulnier’s desirability as a buyer for the property and asks for a definitive answer regarding unity among the governing body.

When asked about his decision to make the letter public – followed closely after he sent a letter to Director of Planning and Development Denise Clavette asking not to receive special treatment – Saulnier said it was in the spirit of transparency.

“The public deserves to know what’s going on,” Saulnier said. “We have nothing to hide.”

In the July 5 press release it states that Saulnier has yet to receive a formal response to his letter to Sutherland. When asked to respond to the claims in the letter of council disdain over the sale, Sutherland said that while everyone on the council may privately have their own opinion, the council votes as one unified body, and that is what counts in this situation.

“The council voted in favor of selling the property to Saulnier Development. With Bernie I look at it as a way to get that area more unified. He already owns the connected building. I think this reduces the number of different players. The fewer the players, the more likely we’ll have a solution for the area,” Sutherland said.

“I just want to make sure they support me doing this. This is a long hill to climb and has been a burden on the taxpayers. We just want to see it resolved,” Saulnier said.

Paul Culloton, condo owner and member of the Island Terrace Owners Association, said in a July 9 interview that while he hopes that the sale of Unit 91 will soon be resolved, he is concerned about the choice of buyer. There have been other buyers interested in Unit 91 before, such as Meredith Richardson, the former owner of Building 2, and Culloton is confused as to why the city would go with Saulnier’s offer now when a similar offer was rejected previously.

“If the city had taken the offer, they would already be getting taxes on this. Lots of rehab needs to go into the building, and the offer would have covered the city’s expenses. They dropped the ball,” Culloton said. “I’m glad the city took it over, I’m grateful for that. But I have neighbors who want to live out there retirement here who are thinking about moving because they’re worried about who the next owner will be.”

During the July 9 council meeting, it was agreed that the sale of Unit 91 would be included in the executive session of the July 23 meeting. This will give Sutherland opportunity to brief the council on details of the sale and ensure the proposal is ready for the Aug. 1 closing.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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