All yours, for $125 million
Tom Stewart's immense estate on Vashon Island is now officially for sale, and neighbors are nervous about who will buy the property and what they will do with it.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Wanted: an oil magnate, a Saudi prince or a software mogul able to buy a $125 million Vashon Island estate — Misty Isle Farms — that is one of the world's most expensive residential properties. Comes with airstrip, putting greens and botanical gardens, all a 10-minute helicopter hop from Seattle.
Tom Stewart stitched together the 530-acre estate from neighboring family farms and the former Wax Orchards. Rumors about the asking price have surfaced since Stewart recently announced that he intends to sell, and the company handling the sale has finally announced the price. It is now getting ready for a worldwide promotional campaign.
Some 50,000 people — known to purchase high-end real estate — have been selected for direct marketing, said Jason Rosauer, vice president of the listing company, GVA Kidder Mathews in Seattle.
Even without the marketing, there's been interest in the property, Rosauer said. Possibilities for the land include selling it as an estate or a working farm, or to be held as a long-term investment, he said.
Stewart, 63, a stalwart Republican and owner of Services Group of America, loves the Vashon ranch he came to 40 years ago and has been an anonymous financial contributor to Vashon's community causes for years, Rosauer said. But last year, he moved his company's headquarters to Arizona, saying he wanted to avoid Washington's inheritance taxes.
"Tom is very interested in preserving the land," Rosauer said. From the waterfalls and fountains in geese-filled ponds to the riding arenas and gardens, the entire property was designed by a landscape architect. It features a 6,500-square-foot ranch-style home with views of Mount Rainier, homes for the staff of 10, bridle trails, pasture for Stewart's black Angus cattle, an airstrip, heated hangar and helicopter landing pad, deluxe barn and putting green.
Stewart's asking price of $125 million matches that of Donald Trump's Palm Beach estate. But it falls below the assessed value of Bill Gates' waterfront Medina home, this year assessed at $135 million with more than $1.1 million in annual property taxes. And nothing matches the January sale of a $231 million piece of land (house not included) with a 360-degree view of Hong Kong on its famed Victoria Peak.
Once Stewart announced that he was selling, island residents became concerned about what the sale of the property might mean to the island, known for its feisty, politically liberal residents who tenaciously defend their rural way of life and try to keep development in check.
That quaint rural folksiness is one of the selling points in the marketing information, but Stewart over the years has had a number of run-ins with locals.
He's run afoul of his neighbors over allegations that he was polluting Fisher Creek with fertilizer used on his fields, disrupting the rural peace with his helicopter and causing traffic mayhem when he hosted the state's Republican Party events at his farm.
"I won't miss his helicopter," said one of his neighbors, Emma Amiad.
Despites the controversy that sometimes followed him, residents are worried about his departure because "we could get something even worse," Amiad said.
Amiad, a local real-estate agent, has been a vocal opponent of what she calls the "McMansion" trend of building homes even larger than Stewart's.
"If your ego is so large that [it] takes 10,000 square feet of house or more to contain it, you may not be the kind of person who cares about our community or its values," Amiad wrote in an open letter to the community she sent to the Vashon Beachcomber, the island's newspaper.
At the Vashon Land Trust, established to preserve some of the island's undeveloped land, Executive Director Tom Dean said that if the new owner of Misty Isle Farms "wanted to be an instant hero" to the community, that person would consider donating a portion of the property to the Vashon Land Trust for a huge tax write-off.
"Everybody out here is pushing hard to keep it as rural as possible," said David Knight, another real-estate agent. "Any kind of development is looked down upon. There's a guy who's been trying to put a 12-room hotel on the island for years."
Misty Isle Farms, "Jewel of the Isle," the marketing information calls it. Residents hope it will stay just that way.
Nancy Bartley: 206-464-8522 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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