A Massachusetts developer bought properties in Portland and Saco, including part of an island in the Saco River where a local developer had proposed an ambitious $40 million project, at separate auctions Tuesday.

Ted Moore of East Marblehead, Massachusetts, paid a total of $36,000 for the two properties, but also took on nearly $3 million in combined liens that had been placed on the properties.

Moore first purchased land at 75 Chestnut St. in Portland, where a 53-unit apartment project next to an existing parking garage was approved by the city but never built. Two hours later, Moore bought an undeveloped 6-acre parcel on Saco Island where developer Bernie Saulnier and J&B Partners LLC had proposed a mixed-use development called The Waters.

A third property owned by J&B Partners at 155 Sheridan St. in Portland is scheduled to be auctioned on Aug. 8. Saulnier won approval in 2017 to build 19 condos on the land on Munjoy Hill, although that project was delayed to address concerns about blocking views from Fort Sumner Park.

The sale of the Saco Island property casts doubt on the ambitious project proposed by Saulnier and J&B Partners for a site that is considered by city officials to be a gateway to Saco. Although Saulnier had released plans for the project and held public meetings about his vision for the property, he never submitted formal plans to the city or secured approvals for the development.

The project would have included 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 was to be split among three buildings with a combined 87 apartment units and five townhouses, according to plans Saulnier released last year.

Saulnier and J&B Partners LLC defaulted on the mortgage for the Saco Island site in January and a public auction of those 6 acres was postponed twice to allow more time to repay the lender.

Ted Moore bought property in Portland and on Saco Island in foreclosure auctions run by attorney Jonathan Flagg on Tuesday. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Last month, Saulnier’s business partner, real estate broker John Veneziano, filed a lawsuit alleging Saulnier “squandered, embezzled and stole” money from their company to pay personal debts and expenses for his other businesses. Saulnier, who has developed housing projects in Saco and Old Orchard Beach, said Tuesday he denies the claims made in the lawsuit and plans to file a countersuit.

Joan Kurker, who holds a $350,000 mortgage on the Saco Island parcel, had scheduled a January sale to foreclose on the mortgage, but postponed the auction to give the developer more time to secure necessary approvals on the project. She also was the mortgage holder on the Chestnut Street property in Portland.

Jonathan Flagg, a Portsmouth-based attorney representing Kurker, said his client was owed more than $400,000 before Tuesday’s auctions. Other mortgage holders and creditors accounted for the remaining liens.

About a dozen people were on hand for the auction of 75 Chestnut St. in Portland. Moore was the only person registered to bid and made an opening offer of $5,000.

Flagg, as representative of the mortgage holder, was able to raise the price to $25,000. After a brief call with his client, Flagg declared the property sold to Moore, who also inherited the $1.3 million in liens against the property.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it,” Moore said after signing the purchase-and-sale agreement placed on the hood of a black Audi hatchback parked nearby.

A couple hours later in Saco, fewer than a half-dozen people attended the auction at the edge of the vacant lot. Moore, again the only registered bidder, opened with an offer of $5,000. Flagg countered and Moore raised his bid to $11,000.

“And that is it,” Flagg said as he concluded the auction after less than a minute.

Moore will inherit $1.6 million in liens on the Saco Island property.

After the second auction, Moore said he had been the third mortgage holder on the Saco Island parcel and bid to protect his interests. He does not have any plans for the property, which sits across the road from a building he owns.

“I have to figure out what the best plan is,” he said.

Saco City Administrator Kevin Sutherland spent a few minutes after the auction speaking with Moore about the property, which sits between the Saco and Biddeford mill districts. Sutherland said a partnership with the city might be possible if “the right type of project to meet the character of our communities” emerges.

“This is the heart of the two cities,” he said. “It needs to succeed so we can all succeed.”

Staff Writer Randy Billings contributed to this report. 

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