MCS LogoIt’s been a rocky and tense few weeks for a handful of Seven Lakes families who are waiting to hear what fate will befall their beloved school.

Heard first through an automated telephone message, the announcement from Dr. Susan Purser, Superintendent of Moore County Schools [MCS], that she was recommending the closure of Academy Heights Elementary School [AHES] was a shock.

Purser targeted AHES because it is an old facility on a tiny piece of land — and because its student population could be accommodated at other county schools, including the year round program also offered at Southern Pines Primary and Elementary.

“I’m all for budget cuts especially if the money isn’t there,” said Westsider Phil Woodard, a AHES parent. “But closing what I consider to be a great school, as opposed to finding another alternative means or location, is wrong. Wait a year, because once you close it you can’t take it back. Let’s make sure you can’t pull money from somewhere else before you slam the door.”

With two young children enrolled at the school, Woodard’s thoughts echoed what many other Academy Heights parents recommended during a three and one half hour public hearing before the Board on the proposed budget.

Read more: 7 Lakes Families Hope for Academy Hts Reprieve

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Faced with a “best case scenario” of an $8.2 million reduction in next year’s schools budget, Superintendent Dr. Susan Purser has recommended several drastic steps to reduce costs but only one has generated any real discussion: closing Academy Heights Elementary School [AHES], which is Moore County’s top ranked school.

Earlier this month, Purser laid out an extensive list of recommendations to the Board of Education in her proposed $90.2 million budget that included reworking the formula ratio to increase the number of students per teacher at every grade level, staggered open and start times for some schools to allow for consolidated bus routes, reductions to pull out programs, reductions in middle school athletics, reductions in arts, health and physical education, and elimination of ninety positions, among others.

However, her recommendation to close Academy Heights produced an immediate and sustained outcry from parents and supporters of the year round program.

During a three and a half hour public hearing on Monday, March 21, held at Union Pines High School, only one speaker tackled the general budget by asking the Board of Education to reconsider full funding of the AIG [Academic or Intellectually Gifted] program. The other fifty plus speakers who addressed the Board were united in their opposition to closing Academy Heights — at least next year.

Read more: Parents rally to save their school

SLLA LogoScarcely forty-eight hours into his term of office, newly-elected Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] President Bob Darr finds himself in the hunt for two replacement Board members.

Veteran Directors Melinda Scott and Chuck Mims both resigned from the Board Wednesday afternoon, March 30, Darr told The Times.

Scott -- who was elected Vice President in the Board's organizational meeting on Monday -- said in her resignation letter that her decision was prompted by "differences between myself and the new Board in terms of Board philosophy and protocol." The Board had reappointed Scott to chair the Architectural Review Board.

Mims -- a career law enforcement officer who now operates a private investigations firm -- said in his resignation letter that his business keeps him away from the community for as much as ninety percent of the time, making Board service difficult. Darr had asked Mims to continue his role as Security Director in the coming year.

Darr told The Times that he had informed his fellow Directors of the resignations and asked them give thought to potential replacements for Scott and Mims.

"But I don't want to rush into naming replacements," Darr said.

Read more: Scott, Mims Resign from SLLA Board

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[When a new Board is seated, the nomination and election of officers often moves very quickly -- sometimes too quickly for a recorder of events to keep up with the action. That was the case this morning, when we recorded in our notes that Don Fentzlaff was elected Vice President of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors, and then reported that this evening.

In fact, it was returning Director Melinda Scott who was elected Vice President during the SLLA Board's organizational meeting.

The Times regrets the error and extends our apology to VP Scott; the story below has been amended to reflect Scott's election to the post.]

Three of the four new Directors seated at the Annual Meeting will also fill executive officer positions on the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board this year, following an Organizational Meeting held Monday, March 28. The meeting was called to order by outgoing President Randy Zielsdorf.

Bob Darr was elected President by a majority vote of four, while votes of acclamation seated Conrad Meyer as Treasurer and Bob Racine as Secretary.

Scott was nominated to the post of President, but failed to secure that seat. Director Bud Shaver declined a nomination to serve as Vice President.

Read more: New SLLA Directors Become New SLLA Officers

SLLA LogoFour new directors -- who will constitute a majority of the Board -- were seated during an election finalized at the Sunday, March 27 Annual Meeting of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA].

Conrad Meyer drew the highest number of votes [404], followed by Don Fentzlaff [391], Bob Racine [386], and Bob Darr [381].

Voters were clearly in an anti-incumbent mood this year, perhaps influenced by a contentious decision to outsource landscape maintenance or the Board's tacit acceptance of a set of Country Club covenants that failed to deliver promised protections. Incumbent Director Bruce Keyser received only 101 votes; SLLA President Randy Zielsdorf, only 71.

SLLA ResultsA total of 445 ballots were cast, more than last year's 380, but still fewer than the 539 cast in 2009, when a dues increase was on the ballot. Approximately ten of the ballots cast were proxy votes.

Zielsforf and Keyser were recognized for their service, as were the other two outgoing Board members: Kent Droppers, who did not seek a second term of office, and Denny Galford, who resigned his position as Director and Treasurer earlier this month.

Also recognized for their service were the members of the Election Committee, including Chair Brenda Massimo, Ione Katz, Wayne Burris, Ed Sanchez, and Laurie Werner.

Read more: Meyer, Fentzlaff, Racine, & Darr Join SLLA Board

SLWLA LogoMick Herdrich was elected President of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] by a unanimous vote of the Board of Directors in a brief meeting Tuesday afternoon, March 22.

John Hoffmann, the sitting Vice President, presided over the election of officers; former President Ron Shepard ended his term on the Board at Sunday's Annual Meeting.

Hoffmann nominated Herdrich for the President's slot, a motion seconded by Adam Wimberly.

Hoffmann himself was re-elected Vice President; Jane Sessler was elected Secretary.

Don Freiert, who was only recently named to the Board and the Treasurer's post, replacing Joe Sikes, was re-elected Treasurer.

All officers were elected by unanimous votes of the Board.

Read more: Herdrich elected Westside President

Jack Stevens, Jim McCarthy, and Jim Ferguson were elected to the Board of Directors of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Sunday afternoon, March 20, in balloting concluded during the Association's Annual Meeting.

SLWLA ResultsStevens, a semi-retired nurse anesthetist and active member of the Lake Auman Sports Club who moved to Seven Lakes West in 2006, was the top vote-getter, with 440 of the 586 votes cast.

McCarthy, who captured 417.5 votes, is a retired New York City Police detective who has lived in the community for three years. Community Manager Joan Frost explained that there are twelve lots in the community used strictly for septic fields -- septic lots -- and these are allowed only one-half vote.

Ferguson retired to Seven Lakes in 2009 after 23 years with the US Government Accountability Office; he attracted 411.5 votes.

Patti Cleary, a well-known community volunteer who has owned property in the community since 1997 and moved to Seven Lakes West in 2002, failed to win a seat, with 357.5 votes.

Turnout was light, with 36 percent of the 1638 qualified lots casting ballots. Frost explained that Seven Lakes West includes 1866 total lots; but 151 of these are developer lots with no vote, and 71 are more than thirty days behind in dues payments and thus are not qualified to vote.

Last year, with a controversial dues increase in the budget, nearly 1,000 Westsiders participated in the balloting. This year's budget easily passed, with 443 for, 133 against, and 19 abstentions.

The membership gave a standing ovation in appreciation of the service of the three retiring members of the Board: President Ron Shepard, Secretary Karen Milligan, and Legal Affairs Director Ed Silberhorn.


Read more: Westside Elects Stevens, McCarthy, & Ferguson

[Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] President Randy Zielsdorf read the letter below during the March 14 Board Work Session, responding to reporting about and criticism of the covenants recently filed by Seven Lakes Country Club to protect its Golf Course property.]

March 14, 2011

I appreciate the Times article dated March 13, 2011, entitled “Zielsdorf: Country Club’s Covenants Are Consistent with 2007 Agreement “. This article was an addendum to their article on March 10, 2011 concerning the Country Club Covenants filed on February 15, 2011 in Moore County. Please consider this letter as my final thoughts and comments pertaining to this issue.

The agreement signed on July 13, 2007 between the Country Club (SLCC) and the Landowners Association (SLLA) was comprised of five bullet items (see attached). For the record, this agreement was not an attorney generated document, but was a good faith effort by some members of both boards to bring an end to a long and contentious dispute between the SLCC and the SLLA concerning the use of the old driving range. Because this document was not drafted by someone with legal expertise, it contains language that is nebulous at best and contradictory at its worst.

Bullet #1 states:

“The Seven Lakes Landowners Association will grant the authority to the Seven Lakes Country Club to establish its own covenants limiting the use of all Country Club property to the operations of the golf course and country club. Hunter Stovall will have the right to review the Seven Lakes Country Club covenants to insure compliance with this requirement.”

Bullet #4 states:?"Upon the sale of any Seven Lakes Country Club property for residential purposes such properties will be subject to the South Side Covenants."

While these are contradictory statements, bullet #4 clearly specifies “any properties”, not just the old driving range. (At the time of this agreement it was the existing driving range). While bullet #4 cannot trump bullet #1, neither can bullet #1 trump bullet #4.

Unfortunately bullet #4 has been ignored by everyone who has looked at the original agreement, myself included. The wording in the SLCC Covenants is consistent with the wording of the original July 2007 agreement. Attorney Stovall's value to the association was that he emphasized that "should" any SLCC property be developed, that it must fall under the South Side Covenants. This is emphasized in the SLCC Covenants document.  The July 2007 document has received judicial review and has been a matter of public record since the April 2008 decision. While the original agreement can be modified, as was recently done, it cannot be changed. 

The current board stands firm in our decision not to make the same mistake as the previous board. To that end, we relied on the expertise of legal counsel who reviewed and revised the covenants that were developed by the SLCC attorney. The end result was a document that complied not only with the July 2007 agreement but with the court decision of 2008 as well.

Some have argued that if the SLCC covenants had been released to the public for review, this error would have been found. It is NOT an error. The July 2007 agreement has been in the public record for 3 years and 8 months, and no one has mentioned the contradiction between the first and fourth bullet items. If anything, bullet #4 is perhaps the most clearly worded of any of the statements in the July 2007 document.

Bullet #2 of the July 2007 agreement provided that the SLCC grant a ten (10) foot easement to the SLLA to run along the entire old driving range and South Side mail house property. This easement was signed on February 14, 2011 by the presidents of both boards, and filed with Moore County on February 15, 2011. The easement assures that a future developer cannot cut an access into the South side from Seven Lakes Drive thereby bypassing the gates. That piece of property had never been protected by the 10 foot buffer which surrounds the rest of Seven Lakes North/South. The current President and Vice President of the SLCC worked very cooperatively with SLLA board member Melinda Scott and me to make a modification to bullet #5 in order to accomplish this task (i.e. to complete bullet #2).

We need to be realistic regarding the SLCC Covenants. That document is not an SLLA document. It was written by the SLCC attorney, reviewed by the SLLA attorney, and approved by both attorneys. The SLCC has worked very hard to keep their course within the top 100 golf courses in North Carolina for the last three years. I believe they will continue to work very hard to keep the golf course viable. But let’s assume the worst case scenario that the SLCC goes bankrupt. It is highly unlikely that the SLLA will ever be able to afford to purchase the entire golf course, let alone maintain it for green spaces. It is better for the SLLA to have the agreement of 2007 and the SLCC Covenants which clearly specify that any development on any of the SLCC properties must conform to the South Side Covenants.

The Agreement of July 2007, between the SLCC and the SLLA resulted in the SLCC and SLLA being sued, along with four SLLA board members. That suit was heard in court in April 2008. The judge ruled in favor of the SLCC and the SLLA. The suit firmly established that the SLLA cannot dictate to the SLCC what they can do with their property. The cost of that suit was $200,000, of which $100,000 was billed to each of the SLCC and the SLLA. Fortunately each side was only required to pay their $5000 deductible along with any time billed by their respective attorneys. When I first became a board member in March 2007, there was board debate and discussion as to whether the SLLA should sue the SLCC over the fate of the old driving range. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed which led to the July 2007 agreement. But had the SLLA sued, it would have lost and borne the entire cost of that suit. There would have been no insurance protection since the SLLA would have initiated the suit.

In conclusion, I would not be surprised if the next seated board, particularly the newest members receive pressure from some within the community to revisit this issue. My advice to the next board is to consider this ugly chapter in the history of Seven Lakes North/South closed, as did the overwhelming majority of our residents back in April of 2008 once the lawsuit was concluded.

Randall A. Zielsdorf, President, SLLA

Seven Lakes ended the decade just past with 1,674 more residents than when it began — a 52 percent jump that took the community’s total population from 3,214 to 4,888.

But that hefty growth rate is by no means the county’s highest. Just released early figures from the 2010 US Census show that the Village of Foxfire increased its population from 478 to 901, a 91 percent gain that represents the county’s fastest growth rate.

Though Seven Lakes is not officially a town (the Census Bureau calls it a “Census-Designated Place”), it is Moore County’s fourth largest community, trailing only Pinehurst (13,124), Southern Pines (12,334), and Aberdeen (6,350). Among the big towns, Pinehurst is, in the 2010 Census, now larger than Southern Pines, having added 3,418 to its population in ten years, compared to 1,416 for Southern Pines.

Aberdeen is not only significantly larger than Seven Lakes, it is growing much faster, posting an 87% gain in ten years, versus 52% for Seven Lakes.

Overall, the county’s population grew by 18%, from 74,769 to 88,247.

Read more: Census: 7 Lakes up 50%, Foxfire nearly doubles

SLLA LogoTwo weeks prior to the end of his term, Treasurer Denny Galford resigned his position on the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors in a surprise announcement at the conclusion of the Monday, March 14 Work Session.

Unwilling to violate a self-imposed code of silence that has become common practice for sitting SLLA directors, Galford first peppered Community Manager Alina Cochran with a to-do list of financially-related items and then read a statement of his intent to resign and explained his decision to directly address his critics.

“Early in my term as a volunteer board member, there were many unfavorable comments directed only to me,” Galford said. “However, recently the tone is a return to what we had four or five years ago. It is unbelievable what Board members are receiving; and, as volunteers, we do not deserve that level of abuse.”

He specifically cited criticism alleging director incompetence over a recently approved amendment to the 2007 Agreement between the Association and the Seven Lakes Country Club [SLCC] over future development of the old driving range. Galford expressed his disappointment in The Times for being “quick to print” negative viewpoints.

“Saying we allowed the Club to destroy property values ignores what members understand: when the property values will drop is when the Club ceases to exist,” Galford said. “The Club is not an adversary of the landowners. It brings in 9,000 to 10,000 guests a year to Seven Lakes and is ranked eighty-third in the state. The Club needs the community and, likewise, the community needs the Club.”

The only fellow board member to ask Galford to reconsider, Director Kent Droppers said he respected his position; but expressed concerns about the time frame. [Galford is not running for reelection and his term was set to expire at the Annual Meeting, less than two weeks away.]

“We often approached things differently, but I would ask that you reconsider,” Droppers said.

“By virtue of resigning, it sets a precedent. This is difficult for all of us, but you’re elected to this Board to do what is in the best interest of the community. We can all disagree without being disagreeable.”

Read more: Galford resigns from SLLA Board

In Memory Of

  • Jane Scales Facey

     of Foxfire Village died on Tuesday, April 19 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. A private...

  • Nancy P. Neilson

    formerly of Seven Lakes, died on Monday,  April 18. Nancy and her husband, Roger, retired from...

  • John E. Letter

    95, of Seven Lakes, died Monday, March 21, at his home, surrounded by family and friends. A...

  • Marilyn Rose Kemble Bearden

     84, formerly of Seven Lakes, died on March 8 in Greenville, SC. The family will receive friends on...

  • Vonadora Baker Stackhouse

    96, died on Wednesday, March 2, her wedding anniversary, at her home in Seven Lakes West. Services were...

  • James R. Nichols

    (Jim) of Seven Lakes died at his home on Monday, February 22.  A Celebration of his life will be...

  • Timothy William Bouchelle

    49, of West End died on Friday, February 19, 2016 at his residence.  A visitation will be held from...

  • John P. Carpenter

    75, of Seven Lakes North died Saturday, February 13 at FirstHealth Hospice House in Pinehurst. A...

  • Michael Jerome Loney

    87 of Seven Lakes West died Tuesday, February 9 at First Health Moore Regional Hospital in...

  • Glenda Mae (Marks) Tucker

    64 of Seven Lakes passed on Sunday February 7 at Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro.  A...

  • Dr. William Harrell Johnson

    92 years old, of Seven Lakes West, died on Tuesday, February 2, at home.  A memorial service was...