SACO — The city’s long-time economic development director, Peter Morelli, is resigning from his position to pursue a new opportunity to help prepare Maine communities for an aging population.

Morelli, who has worked for the city for more than 27 years, first as a city planner and later focusing more on economic development, sent a resignation letter to City Administrator Richard Michaud on Sept. 17.

His last day on the job will be Oct. 8.

Morelli will begin his new job as a consultant leading the AARP Maine Age Friendly Community Project later in the month.

“I’ve had a great time” working for the City of Saco, but, he said, he’s looking forward to a new challenge.

During his time with the city, Morelli said he has worked on two comprehensive plans, two downtown plans, rewriting the zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations, built parks and retained open space, and streamlined the land use approval process.

In the economic development sphere, he helped rebuild and spur development on Main Street, which is again fully occupied, build two business parks, attract Amtrak service and build a train station, create a business finance agency and a downtown organization, helped hundreds of companies locate or expand into Saco, and attract more than $4 million in grant funding, he said.

He’s also worked on a number of boards and commissions, including the Dyer Library and Saco Museum, Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, Saco Spirit, Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, Biddeford Saco Economic Development Corporation, and the Speaker’s Round Table Discussion on Aging.

In an email notifying the city council of Morelli’s resignation, Michaud wrote, “Peter’s departure is a great loss for this community. Peter has been an able representative of the City of Saco. ”¦ Peter has been one of my trusted advisors providing good advice on planning and development activities for the city.”

Because of Morelli’s long tenure with the city, Mayor Don Pilon said in a telephone interview Tuesday, “we’re losing a great resource. It will be very hard to replace Peter. He’s a very integral part of the community.”

Pilon said the city plans to hire someone to fill Morelli’s position. He said the city council will discuss in a workshop at its next meeting on Oct. 5 what the city is looking for in a new economic development director and “how to approach economic development in the future.”

In his new position, Morelli said he will work with interested communities to help them prepare “as the gigantic population of baby boomers ages.”

Morelli will put to use his planning and economic development skills to deal with issues such as transportation, housing, civic engagement and other concerns for an aging population, he said. Under his leadership, the City of Saco has been dealing with similar issues, which Morelli said is how he came into his new job.

State director of AARP Maine, Lori Parham, said she met Morelli while assisting him with a Saco project, and the two also worked on a committee together that dealt with aging issues.

He was chosen to lead the project that is being funded by a grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation because, she said, “he brings a wealth of experience from a planning and economic development perspective.”

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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