GOULDSBORO, Maine — Local lobster dealer Dana Rice was the top bidder Tuesday in a foreclosure auction for a 2-acre wharf property where he has run his waterfront business for several years.
An auction for a much larger adjacent property, the 148-acre Ocean Wood Campground, had no bidders. The properties are being foreclosed upon by Schoodic Point LLC, which has held the mortgages in exchange for more than $7 million it has lent to their owner.
But the man who claims he still owns the properties is not giving them up without a legal fight. James Brunton, who has tried to file for bankruptcy so that he can retain ownership of the wharf and the campground, said Tuesday by phone that he is consulting with his lawyers and trying to have his bankruptcy petition accepted in federal court.
“We don’t believe it is going to hold,” Brunton said of the auction.
Brunton declined further comment about the controversy, saying he intended to release a statement when the legal issues surrounding the bankruptcy filings have been resolved.
Nicholas Bayley, whose company is trying to foreclose on the campground, said after the auction that he wished someone had been willing to bid the minimum price of $5.5 million on the larger property. Because there was no bid, Bayley said, he plans to hold onto the campground for now and hopes to find a buyer in the future. He said he is not sure what he will do with the property in the meantime, but would like to see it continue operating as a campground for at least this summer.
“I hope so,” he said, standing outside by the wharf that Rice won at auction.
Rice’s winning bid was $345,000 for the wharf and the land surrounding an adjacent lobster pound.
Brunton, who tried unsuccessfully last month to stave off the foreclosure auction by filing for bankruptcy, on Monday filed another bankruptcy petition, according to his bankruptcy attorney, David Johnson of Portland. Federal bankruptcy Judge Louis Kornreich ruled on Feb. 20 that Brunton could not file for bankruptcy be-cause his properties were uninsured, a requirement under federal bankruptcy law. At the time of the hearing, Brunton was in Panama but was planning to return to Maine, Johnson said at the time.
Johnson said Monday evening in an e-mail that since Kornreich’s decision, Brunton has been able to insure the property.
“We’ve notified Schoodic [Point LLC’s] counsel of this and the fact that the filings invoke automatic stay [of the foreclosure],” Johnson said. “Notwithstanding the filings, Schoodic’s counsel has indicated that they intend to proceed with the auction despite the fact that this will be a clear violation of the automatic stay.”
Bayley’s bankruptcy attorney, John McVeigh of Portland, indicated Monday in an e-mail that the latest bankruptcy filings — one for the campground and one of its parent company, J.A. Brunton Inc. — were insufficient for delaying the auction. He indicated that he was filing for emergency relief so that the auction could go forward.
“They are deficient filings, again,” McVeigh wrote. “I am moving for emergency relief, again.”
Schoodic Point LLC had tried to hold the auction on Feb. 17, but it was delayed after Brunton filed for bankruptcy that morning. Schoodic had tried to foreclose on the property in December 2007, which also prompted Brunton to file for bankruptcy, but that bankruptcy petition was withdrawn after Bayley agreed to lend Brun-ton more money.
Overall, Bayley’s company has lent Brunton more than $7.3 million, which was supposed to be repaid by December 2008, Bayley has said.
Attempts after the auction to contact Rice, the top bidder on the wharf property, were unsuccessful.
What will happen with the campground has been a subject of local interest because of the possibility that it could become part of a proposed resort that would be built on an adjacent 3,300-acre parcel on Schoodic Peninsula owned by Winter Harbor Properties Inc.
Many area residents have spoken out against the resort proposal because of the adverse effect they say it would have on the peninsula and on the abutting Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park. Others have said it would benefit the peninsula’s economy, which has suffered ever since the Navy closed down a base at Schoodic Point in 2002.
Winter Harbor Properties Inc. owns a right of first refusal on the campground, but according to McVeigh the foreclosure negates that right.
Approximately 30 people were at Tuesday’s auction, but none seemed to be there representing Winter Harbor Properties.
Cecelia Ward, spokeswoman for the resort developer, wrote recently in an e-mail that the firm has no comment about the campground.