SWANVILLE, Maine — James Shue drove up a gravel road late Thursday afternoon to a hillside with a beautiful view of the midcoast Maine hills and a blue glimpse of Belfast Bay far below.
The turning trees shone golden in the setting sun and only the rustle of leaves and the sound of the wind filled his ears.
“If I had to choose one word to describe this, it would be serenity,” the land developer from Jackson said.
He was in the middle of his 200-acre Oak Hill Estates development, a gated complex situated off the rural Oak Hill Road, not far from downtown Belfast. It’s a development that is obviously important to Shue — but one that, if things go well, he will no longer be part of after a 150-acre portion of it goes up for auction at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30.
“I have an investment opportunity on the West Coast, so I’m shifting emphasis,” he said.
But the planned development also fell prey to the great recession, he said. It received approvals by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the town of Swanville in 2004, and Shue saw it as a private, beautiful place for people to live or have vacation homes. He imagined them driving back from jobs in Bangor and Belfast to their peaceful homes near trout-stocked Nichols Pond.
Shue has so far sold 36 lots, and the owners have built homes and camps on some of them. Despite those buildings, the roads, power lines, fancy entrance and other infrastructure in place, however, Oak Hill Estates seems more wild than developed right now.
“A moment came several years back when the market couldn’t absorb the availability of real estate parcels,” Shue said.
The Keenan Auction Co. will sell the remaining lots — all of which have been approved for building — as an entirety on Tuesday.
“It’s a beautiful project, with a lot of infrastructure in place,” Stef Keenan said Thursday. “It provides a lot of opportunity for a builder. And what’s really attractive to buyers is the fact that it’s an auction, with the understanding that there’s going to be a buy, and they will get a discount.”
He said that he has had interest in the property from throughout New England, and that the auction will be conducted both on-site and online at www.proxibid.com.
It will take place even if the Halloween storm makes landfall in Maine that day, Keenan said.
“Bring your jacket,” he added.
The town of Swanville has assessed the 84 lots for sale at about $755,000, Shue said.
A Swanville town official said Friday morning that back taxes are owed on some of the parcels, and some liens that are close to maturing.
According to Shue, he has invested considerably more than $1 million in the property, and the 36 lots that have sold have ranged in price from $16,000 to $100,000. All the remaining parcels have access to Nichols Pond via a common area.
He’s owned the property since the 1960s.
“It’s such a beautiful place,” Shue said. “It was a lot of fun when my kids were growing up. It was a wonderful retreat.” One of his children is actress Elisabeth Shue.