A public auction of land on the east side of Saco Island has been postponed to give a developer more time to secure approvals for a $40 million mixed-use project.

Joan Kurker, who holds a $350,000 mortgage on the parcel, had scheduled the sale for Friday to foreclose on the mortgage, according to documents filed in the York County Registry of Deeds. The planned sale cast doubt on the future of the ambitious project proposed by developer Bernie Saulnier of J&B Partners to transform the undeveloped site near Saco’s downtown. City officials were prepared to participate in the auction.

Jon Flagg, the Portsmouth-based attorney for Kurker, said his client decided to postpone the sale until 3:30 p.m. March 15 to give Saulnier’s group more time to secure necessary project approvals.

“I fully expect that ultimately the sale will be canceled,” Flagg said. “The borrowers are working diligently in the right direction and the lender is very pleased with that.”

Saulnier has been working for more than a year on his plans to transform the nearly 6-acre parcel. The project, called The Waters, includes residential units, a 50-room boutique hotel, a restaurant and retail space, a 69-slip marina and a walking path along the river. The housing would be split among three buildings with a combined 87 apartment units and five townhouses.

The project has not gone before the Saco Planning Board, and last summer ran into delays when the Saco River Corridor Commission, a quasi-state organization that works to protect the environment along the corridor, tabled the project application.

City Administrator Kevin Sutherland said Thursday he was unaware the auction of land had been postponed.

City officials describe the Saco Island East property as a gateway to the city and say its development could have a significant impact on the core of the downtown. The property is assessed at $379,000, according to city records.

Saco Island – also known as Factory Island – sits in the Saco River between the downtowns of Biddeford and Saco. It links both cities’ historic mill districts, where developers in the last decade have transformed former textile factories into commercial and light industrial spaces and also housing.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: @grahamgillian

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