The Saco Planning Board has approved plans by a Massachusetts developer to build townhouses on the undeveloped side of Saco Island after previous high-profile projects fell through.

The 6-acre parcel where the housing will be built has been vacant for decades. Other developers have proposed ambitious mixed-use projects that failed to materialize, including a $40 million plan to build housing, restaurants, retail space and a marina.

On Tuesday, the planning board voted 4-0 to approve a plan by Saco Island Ventures LLC to build 24 three-bedroom townhouses on the east side of Saco Island.

“This property has languished as an under-performing eyesore on Main Street for far too long,” Edward “Ted” Moore, owner of the property and a principal of Saco Island Ventures, said in a statement. “I think Saco taxpayers will be pleased that the planning board’s decision puts an end to the inertia that has lasted for decades.”

Moore is also a principal of The Forge Collection, which since 2018 has invested more than $7 million in apartment units on the west side of Saco Island. Moore said his company’s goal is to increase residential and commercial vibrancy on the island to support nearby businesses. 

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 housing, and commercial and light industrial spaces.

Moore purchased the property on the east side of the island in a July 2019 foreclosure auction after previous owner Bernard Saulnier defaulted on a loan. Saulnier had pitched a $40 million development plan for the island, but it was never approved. Before that, plans for luxury condos on the island that had been approved in 2007 fell apart during the recession.

The land currently generates $8,000 a year in property taxes for Saco. After completion, it is expected to generate over $200,000 annually in property tax revenue for the city, according to Saco Island Ventures. Unlike past proposals, it does not require a public-private partnership and Moore is not seeking a tax increment financing agreement for the project similar to the one approved by the Saco City Council for the 2007 development.

The housing project received approval from the Saco River Corridor Commission in May.

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