Plans for posh Brownville resort still alive

Posted March 26, 2009, at 7:18 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11 a.m.

BROWNVILLE, Maine — His top financier of time shares went out of business because of the economy, but that hasn’t deterred a California developer who plans to build a multimillion-dollar, year-round resort in Brownville.

Jim Dennehy, president of WHG Development, told town officials recently that he has completed a feasibility study and the results are encouraging, but he said he still needs more time before he can file his final plan with the planning board.

Dennehy has proposed construction of The Reserve at Norton Pond, a $500 million high-end resort for the Schoodic and Ebeemee lakes region. His original plan was to develop a four-star hotel, train station, a convention center, spa facility, a conference center, golf school and golf course, clubhouse, three free-standing restaurants and 400 time-share units over a 10-year period on some of the 4,000 acres he owns.

“He’s still going gung-ho,” Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson said Thursday. “He seemed very upbeat about the ability to get the money as soon as the economy loosens up a bit.”

Aware of the progress Dennehy has made, the planning board on Wednesday granted the developer his fifth request for more time. Dennehy had six months to file a final plan with the town after preliminary approval was given for his subdivision request in September 2005. Since the town has no authority to grant an extension, the board simply reviews Dennehy’s documentation and provides him with preliminary approval to allow him more time, according to Wilson.

When the planning board last discussed the project, in March 2008, Dennehy had not begun a feasibility study for the project, Wilson said. That study is completed.

“It looks really good,” Wilson said Thursday about the study. She said Dennehy told her that he had run into some technical difficulties while trying to create the parameters for the feasiblity study, since nothing like his proposed development had ever been done in the New England area. Dennehy ended up hiring a consultant to work with a marketing firm and together they organized a focus group of the top 20 organizers of conventions and conferences in the country, she said.

Wilson said those organizers were impressed with the proposed location, amenities and buildings as well as the suggested rates, she said.

Dennehy hopes to have basic renderings of the project to give to the planning board and the community this summer. The drawings will not be construction drawings, since the quote he received for that work was between $15 million and $20 million, Wilson said. Before he invested that much money, the developer wants to have the project details all fine-tuned, she said.

Wilson said Dennehy was unable to provide a date for the submission of his application for a site review permit from the state.

“He continues to pour an awful lot of time and money into this project, so his commitment, I don’t think, is in question,” Wilson said.

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