2018-08-30 / News

The Waters sitewalk provides answers

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer


Saco Planning Board Chairman Neil Schuster addresses the mix of city officials, team members from The Waters and private residents upon completion of the Aug. 21 planning board site walk for The Waters project, a $40 million development on the eastern side of Saco Island. (Abigail Worthing photo) Saco Planning Board Chairman Neil Schuster addresses the mix of city officials, team members from The Waters and private residents upon completion of the Aug. 21 planning board site walk for The Waters project, a $40 million development on the eastern side of Saco Island. (Abigail Worthing photo) SACO – The Waters on Saco Island East hosted the planning board for a site walk last week, the first step in the approval process for the $40 million project.

The tour was lead by Stephen Bushey, engineer at Stantec, who distributed maps and answered questions from the 20 in attendance, which included members of the board, city officials and private residents. The project will feature two condominium buildings, retail space, a boutique hotel developed by Jim Brady of the Press Hotel in Portland, and the second location of Nonesuch River Brewing. It’s estimated to generate $800,000 in annual property tax revenue for the city of Saco.


Stantec Engineer Stephen Bushey (back to, in plaid) demonstrates the location of resident boat slips, which will be located on the eastern side of the property. The project will consist of two sets of boat slips, one exclusively for residents, and another on the western side, to be used by visitors and patrons of the hotel and restaurant who wish to visit by boat. (Abigail Worthing photo) Stantec Engineer Stephen Bushey (back to, in plaid) demonstrates the location of resident boat slips, which will be located on the eastern side of the property. The project will consist of two sets of boat slips, one exclusively for residents, and another on the western side, to be used by visitors and patrons of the hotel and restaurant who wish to visit by boat. (Abigail Worthing photo) The Aug. 21 site walk took those in attendance on a tour of the layout of the buildings, even traversing through overgrown brush to see the land from different vantage points. Some planning board members made their way through the tall grass to the riverfront to see the view and placement of the retaining wall that will be built prior to construction.

As the tour progressed through the 5.8 acre lot, the team from The Waters described plans for the area, as well as answer questions that have been raised by locals, including a particularly heated letter sent to the Saco River Corridor Commission, which is reviewing the project proposal. The letter from Biddeford Conservation Commission cited concerns over dormant chemicals from former mills on the property and a lack of replaced vegetation following clear cutting on the property.

“We’ve done studies into the ground here and we will not be digging up anything dangerous. We’ve spoken with specialists and will be covering the ground with lots of clean fill,” Bushey said.

The team addressed concerns about water run off into the river and detailed a plan for water-catching gardens on the roofs of the five buildings, which will allow for rainwater to be caught and filtered prior to returning to the river. Multiple times throughout the tour Bushey referenced the prior project that was approved by the planning board for the property in 2007, a gated community with limited public access.

Lisa Vickers, senior project manager of Atlantic Environmental, answered questions about the marina, which was clarified to be two separate sections of boat slips without the presence of maintenance services or fuel. One section of slips will be located on the eastern side of the project and be exclusively for those who live in the condominiums. The western set of slips will be open to the public, providing opportunity for those who want to dine or stay at The Waters to arrive by boat. The slips will accommodate 56 boats up to 24 feet long.

Along the tour, Bushey pointed out areas of public access for the project, which will include spaces for residents to fish and a proposed continuation of the RiverWalk. The addition to the RiverWalk, which, if the city of Biddeford continues its extension up river, would extend the path from Pearl Street down through The Waters, and the hope is that one day it will stretch to Fisherman’s Walk south of the dam. There is a plan between the city of Saco and The Waters to work with Central Maine Power to create a pedestrian bridge under the auto bridge, to allow those who walk to cross from Saco Island to the development without needing to cross traffic.

“Throughout this whole process, we’ve been working with the city’s goals and objectives to help bring access to this area,” Bushey said.

While there have been concerns raised on social media and in a poll that was conducted on The Waters Facebook page that the project could present an exclusivity that would deter residents from enjoying the area, Bushey was adamant that this would be an open space. When these concerns were echoed during a period of questions with Planning Board Chairman Neil Schuster at the end of the tour that only residents and hotel patrons would be allowed to enjoy the amenities, Bushey was quick to respond.

“We are committed to making this a good asset for the community. We’ve talked to the city about maybe hosting concerts, or an art show, or food trucks,” Bushey said. “This will be a vibrant, active space. We’re genuinely excited about the opportunity.”

The Waters will make another presentation to the planning board meeting next month. A date has not been determined. The project is anticipated to break ground later this fall, but will do so only when plans have been approved by the planning board and the Saco River Corridor Commission. Project officials presented plans for a third time at an Aug. 22 meeting in Dayton, but a decision was tabled. Media contact for The Waters Mark Robinson has said that the project will not move forward until all approvals are in place. The next meeting of the Saco River Corridor Commission is Wednesday, Sept. 26, however it has not been announced if the project will be discussed at the meeting.

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

Return to top