Dunnes flee $8m mansion amid row with locals over new home
Published 04/03/2011 | 05:00
INDEBTED developer Sean Dunne and his wife Gayle have left the $8m (€5.8m) US mansion they were living in amid increasing hostility from neighbours over plans to rebuild a house nearby.
An estate agent and local residents have confirmed the Dunnes moved out of the property in the exclusive Belle Haven enclave in Greenwich, Connecticut. The upmarket area is home to singer Diana Ross and a number of hedge-fund billionaires.
The secretive couple had been renting a plush mansion on Field Point Road for $17,500 (€12,600) a month while work was being carried out on a $2m (€1.5m) house, which was expected to become their family home, on nearby Bush Avenue.
However, it has now emerged they moved out in recent weeks as a spat with neighbours over plans for the Bush Avenue property became increasingly fractious.
It is unclear where they have relocated to, but locals in Greenwich told the Irish Independent they had not been seen in the area for some time.
The revelation came after lawyers representing local residents got a renewed legal order last week prohibiting further work on the Victorian-era home.
Locals have claimed the Dunnes breached planning regulations after the property was substantially demolished last year. Sean Dunne (56), who regularly commutes between the US and Ireland on business, has denied any link to the Bush Avenue property.
However, it was registered as 36-year-old Gayle Dunne's home address in filings for two real estate companies she now owns. A lawyer representing Mrs Dunne is acting as the property's trustee.
A local real estate agent confirmed that the Dunnes had moved and that the mansion they had been renting was now on the market with an asking price of $8m.
Neighbours said the Dunnes were rumoured to be looking at properties in Stanwich, another town in Connecticut.
The move by the Dunnes to Greenwich last year raised eyebrows as Mr Dunne is dealing with NAMA and also has substantial debts with non-NAMA banks. They quickly became embroiled in controversy, attracting negative publicity in the local press when locals complained about alleged planning infractions.
One neighbour told the Irish Independent that locals were "united" in their opposition to the building work. Work on the property was initially halted last October. Efforts to have it "weather-proofed" in recent weeks were also objected to by locals and a further "stop work" order was granted by planning authorities. Mrs Dunne's lawyer, Thomas Heagney, told a public meeting last week that negotiations to resolve the dispute had begun.
Mrs Dunne, a former socialite and gossip columnist, revealed in legal papers earlier this year that she had moved to the US to become a property developer and had been scouting out a potential land deal in Chicago.
Details of her change in career emerged after she sued a New York immigration lawyer who she alleged swindled her out of $500,000 (€365,000). The court papers did not reveal how Mrs Dunne was funding her foray into the US real estate market.
A statement issued on her behalf said her home and finances were not a matter of public interest. It added Mrs Dunne had no debts with any institutions covered by the bank guarantee nor was she the subject of any NAMA loans.