Saco resident grievance petitioner Chelsea Hill spoke about traffic safety at the Sept. 26 hearing. Eloise Goldsmith photo

SACO — Dozens of Saco residents packed into City Hall’s second floor auditorium last Tuesday for a hearing to discuss a grievance petition focused on a proposed housing development on Lincoln Street. Now, all eyes are on the Planning Board, which will hear from the developer and may issue a final approval vote on the development during their next meeting on Thursday, Oct. 5. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing during the meeting to solicit feedback from the community.

The petition drafters allege that the city has flouted its own ethical code and procedural rules in an attempt to ram through the approval of the proposed Lincoln Village development over objections from the public. The grassroots group Save Saco Neighborhoods gathered 172 signatures for the petition, securing enough support to force a special public meeting to air their concerns.

The meeting was attended by members of the public as well as Mayor Bill Doyle and all members of City Council. Although City Council members attended as observers and do not have any role in what comes before the Planning Board, City Councilor Michael Burman of Ward 4 pushed back on some of the petitioners’ claims surrounding an alleged conflict of interest between City Attorney Timothy Murphy and Planning Board Member Joyce Leary Clark.

Members of Save Saco Neighborhoods object to the development on a number of grounds. “This (development would be like) putting a mini city in the middle of a city, in the middle of a bunch of established neighborhoods. It just doesn’t work,” said Bill Kany, a member of Save Saco Neighborhoods and the moderator of the special hearing last week. Kany also said the development does not belong in Saco because he said it fails to provide affordable housing.

Father Basil Arabatzis, the parish priest of Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Saco, echoed Kany’s comments at the hearing. “Approving this project would create a city within a city,” he said.

The Lincoln Village development is a proposed 332-unit mixed residential development, which would sit between Lincoln and Bradley street in Saco. According to Save Saco Neighborhoods, it is the largest development ever proposed in Saco.


During the hearing, Bill Kany denounced what he described as a conflict of interest between Timothy Murphy, an attorney for the city, and Planning Board Member Joyce Leary Clark, who both work for the same law firm. The Planning Board, which Leary Clark sits on, reviews applications and proposals for major developments. Murphy has offered legal counsel to the Planning Board during the review of of this project.

Kany, who is himself an attorney, relied on an extended courtroom analogy to spell out the alleged conflict of interest, likening Murphy to the lawyer for one party on trial and Leary Clark to an independent juror deliberating on the case.

Councilor Michael Burman pushed back on this comparison. Leary Clark and Murphy are not in opposition, “they’re both on the same side as the public. The public has enacted these zoning ordinances, it’s the job of the city and Planning Board to make sure they’re followed,” he said after the hearing.

“I don’t see a conflict of interest at all,” Burman added.

The grievance petition alleges that “(Leary) failed to disclose to the parties and the public the fact that she is Attorney Murphy’s law partner.”

This grievance petition hearing comes two years after the Planning Board declined to approve what Save Saco Neighborhoods has called a nearly identical development.


“Two years ago this same board (three of you were on the board) heard the proposal of the Flatley Company to construct 336 units on this same property. While the buildings were taller and larger, the number of units was basically the same and the impacts were essentially identical,” wrote Kelley Archer, a member of the Save Saco Neighborhoods, in a letter to the Planning Board from earlier this year.

In 2021, the Planning Board evaluated the Flatley Company project on a number of criteria, including whether it was consistent with requirements of master planned developments in the district and whether it would burden the city’s infrastructure. The Planning Board did not vote the development through, ruling that it failed to prove that the city’s streets could accommodate the additional traffic that the development would generate.

Speakers at Tuesday’s hearing spent a good portion of the evening raising concerns about the Lincoln Village development’s potential impact on traffic. Chelsea Hill, a Saco resident who lives on Bradley Street, became emotional while describing her efforts to get state and local officials to take traffic and speeding in the area seriously.

According to Archer, the group spent “thousands of dollars” on a separate traffic study, which found that the original traffic study done by the developer and reviewed by the city failed to adhere to some Maine Department of Transportation guidelines and regulations. For example, when the original study considered the surrounding roads’ “level of service” — an analysis of traffic speed, density and volume — it did not take into account cyclists, motorcyclists or pedestrians using the road, as is required by Maine DOT.

Bill Kany closed the public meeting by urging members of the public to attend the public hearing at the next Planning Board session on Oct. 5. The meeting will take place at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall’s second floor auditorium.

“They need to understand our concerns and hear from us that one last time—because it’s not approved yet,” he said.


















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