Land trust buys controversial Bar Harbor stables

Posted Sept. 29, 2008, at 9:20 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 5:58 a.m.

BAR HARBOR, Maine — A land trust that held a conservation easement on a local stable is the new owner of the Crooked Road property, now that it has been sold at a foreclosure auction.

Maine Coast Heritage Trust, which had lent the previous owner the money she needed to buy the 37-acre property, acquired it on Sept. 23 for $410,000.

Joanne Sullivan, former owner of Eochaidh (pronounced yawkee) Stables, defaulted on her mortgage on the property after she became involved in a custody battle with the state over her horses.

Citing concerns about the health of the animals, the state seized 18 horses from the farm in April 2007, about a month after a horse died of colic at the property. Sullivan successfully took the state to court to get back custody of the animals. A judge in Ellsworth District Court ruled last summer that the Maine Animal Welfare Program could keep five of the horses temporarily, but that the rest were healthy and should be returned to Sullivan immediately. The others were to be returned to Sullivan when they regained their health.

Horses not owned by Sullivan that were being boarded at the stables had been returned to their owners while another died in state custody. Eight of the horses were returned to Eochaidh Stables last October.

Brian Reilly, project manager for Maine Coast Heritage Trust, said Monday that Sullivan still owed the trust $410,000 for the property when she defaulted on the loan. He said the trust was not involved in the dispute over the health of the horses at the property.

Reilly said MCHT had hoped a higher bidder would come along but none materialized. Since last week’s auction, the trust has been contacted by potential owners who are interested in the property, he said.

MCHT has a conservation easement on 35 acres of the 37-acre property, which has a stream running through it and abuts Acadia National Park, according to Reilly. The house and barn on the property need some work, he said.

“It’s a lovely, beautiful piece of land,” Reilly said. “We are looking for a buyer. We’d be happy to entertain offers.”

Reilly said Sullivan has vacated the property and taken the remaining horses with her. He said he is not sure where she has gone.

Attempts Monday afternoon to contact Sullivan by phone and e-mail were unsuccessful.

According to prosecutors, Sullivan had faced civil charges of cruelty to animals and failure to provide sustenance to animals, but the charges were dropped earlier this year because of a lack of evidence.

Sullivan had been renting the property when she acquired it in 2003 after a jury in Hancock County Superior Court determined that she had a binding agreement to buy the property from the previous owners for $350,000. She had said last summer that the seizure of the horses deprived her of her primary income from providing horseriding lessons and trail rides to the public.

Sullivan put up the property for sale earlier this year, before she defaulted on her mortgage payments. A local real estate agency was listing the property this spring for $629,000.

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