Moore County Logo After hearing four hours of testimony from the proponents and opponents of MHK Ventures’ request for Planned Unit Development-Hamlet [PUD-H] rezoning for the proposed Pine Forest Golf Club, the Moore County Board of Commissioners decided to suspend a quasi-judicial public hearings until their March 1 meeting. After all public hearing testimony is reviewed, the Planning Department is expected to bring its recommendations to the Board’s March 15 regular meeting.

Concern that Pine Forest might threaten the headwaters of Nick’s Creek headwaters was raised by opponents of the rezoning request during the initial January 18 Public hearing on the matter and continued to be a primary topic of discussion during the hearing Tuesday night. Commissioner Larry Caddell, a former Mayor of Carthage, which depends on Nick's Creek for its water supply, has withdrawn from consideration of Pine Forest, because he felt he could not rule impartially rule on the rezoning due to his intimate knowledge of and history with the creek.

At the January 18 hearing a number of Pine Forest opponents argued that the developer could legally take water from Nick’s Creek if it were needed to irrigate golf courses or common areas, and the County’s hands would be tied on the matter.

 

Riparian rights at issue

At Tuesday night’s meeting the Planning Department offered a definition of "riparian rights," which allow a landowner to make “reasonable use” of water adjacent to his property as long as it does not “injure” the rights of downstream riparian owners. Chairman Nick Picerno asked if Lake Auman in Seven Lakes, which is the headwaters of Drowning Creek, was similar in nature to Nick’s Creek and Carthage. Public Works Director Dennis Brobst could not confirm any similarities, but did say that during a drought a “minimal release” of water is required, as outlined in a permit for Lake Auman.

Read more: Pine Forest Hearing Continued to March

SLLA LogoAfter months of negotiations -- and with a real estate developer waiting in the wings -- the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors on Monday approved an amended agreement with Seven Lakes Country Club [SLCC] concerning future development of the old driving range. The action was taken during a Special Open Meeting that preceded the February 14 Board Work Session.

Originally executed in July 2007, the agreement was put back on the table for discussion last Summer when the Club wanted clearer language regarding the relationship between the Association and any future developer of the old range. The fifth bullet point of the original document restricted future development of the property to no more than fourteen homes and committed the Association to "work with the developer in an open, efficient and cooperative fashion."

After several months of slow progress and multiple conferences with attorneys on both sides, key Board members representing the Club and Association met in January 2011 and reached a compromise, SLLA President Randy Zielsdorf explained during Monday's special meeting.

The result was an amended fifth bullet point that no longer specifies a maximum number of homes that may be built on the driving range but, instead, relies on a combination of Moore County ordinances and South Side covenants to limit the density of any subdivision. While the SLLA continues, in the amended agreement, to pledge to work with the developer in an open and cooperative manner, it also promises that the developer will be subject to the same decision-making criteria as any other home or lot owner, as applied by the Architectural Review Board [ARB].

 

Read more: SLLA, Club ink new deal on driving range

SLLA LogoA spirited debate on the proposed contract to outsource landscape maintenance dominated the Monday, February 14 Work Session of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board.

Opening the table to discussion, Zielsdorf said he welcomed discussion and understood the concern over the proposed $146,000 annual cost of the maintenance contract -- but, he added, the proposed expenditure was within the current budget.

“There is not one Board member here that would vote for something that would cause a dues increase,” Zielsdorf said.

But that appeared to be the only point that the entire Board could agree on when it came to outsourcing landscape maintenance.

 

Finance unanimously opposed to outsourcing

“I want to emphasize that we are not talking about just $146,000." Treasurer Denny Galford said, "We are talking about a maintenance department with a total expenditure of $347,000, which is 25 percent of the income we receive each year.”

“This is not a revenue or cost neutral thing," Galford continued. "We’re not talking spending the same amount for outsourcing or [maintaining] an in-house plan.”

Using a comparison spreadsheet and poker chips and tennis balls as props to illustrate the differences in costs and percentage of work hours between the two plans, Galford explained that the Association would actually be losing $59,000 worth of labor by outsourcing landscape maintenance. In addition, he noted, by maintaining the department in-house the Association has more opportunity to adjust costs as needed.

“Talis recommends outsourcing based on monetary and non-monetary reasons," Galford said, "but I don’t believe they have reviewed everything."

According to the Treasurer, an independent review by each member of the Finance Committee of all pertinent documents had yielded the same verdict: in-house staffing is less costly than outsourcing. Specific documents reviewed included the Talis Management Group contract; various cost studies and maintenance department analysis prepared by Don Truesdell, Bob Darr, and Bud Shaver; and bids for outsourced mowing solicited in 2009.

Read more: SLLA Board debates outsourcing maintenance

SLWLA Logo

[Update (2/14/11) — The Seven Lakes West Landowners Association has posted a map and further details about the recommended changes to the Lake Auman ski area on the community's website. Click here to download a copy.]

[This article has been corrected to reflect the fact that the proposed distance between shoreline and ski area is 125 yards, not 125 feet, as we originally reported. The correction is highlighted in the story below. The Times regrets the error.]

The ski area at Lake Auman may be expanded by as much as fifteen percent -- mainly at the north end of the lake and along the dam -- if a recommendation from the Proposed Buoy and Boating Rules Revisions Committee is approved by the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors.

The twelve-member volunteer committee is recommending five changes to the current buoy and boating regulations; Paul Kirst presented the panel's report during the Board's Tuesday, February 8 work session.

The first recommendation is to enlarge the ski area by fifteen percent, placing buoys a minimum of 125 feet yards from all residential shoreline properties.

MapThe second change would widen the no-wake zone to include the entire area from the shore to the ski area. Kirst explained that this would create a larger area that would be safe for swimmers. The committee defined the no-wake zone as "producing no appreciable wake, with a maximum speed of five miles per hour."

The third proposed change would move the buoys guarding Johnson Point closer to the docks -- from the current 239 yards to 150 yards -- which would decrease the time it takes for boaters to get out to the large cove. The committee predicts that the increase in boat speed closer to the docks will not increase the size of wakes in this area.

The area between Johnson Point and the new ski area will be known as a “transitional speed area” in which boats that are within 125 feet of the shoreline would be limited to no wake and a speed of 5 mph max. Since the new buoy location is narrower, it could be marked with two buoys rather than the three that are currently in place. The committee also suggested adding two additional buoys near Johnson Point to protect an area where land juts out into the transitional area.

The final recommendation is for novice skiers to be allowed to start their runs at the bulkhead of the northeast side of the island before merging with traffic in the ski area. A sign on the bulkhead would mark the start location.

Responding to Kirst's presentation, Board members asked for clarification about whether the boat or the skier needs to remain within the designated buoys. Infrastructure Director John Goodman said he feared that placing buoys so close to the shore may not allow enough room for boats to safely make some turns. Kirst said he would take those concerns back to the committee to be reviewed.

Vice President John Hoffman, who presided at the meeting in the absence of President Ron Shepard, asked that the committee finalize its report and present it at the Board's February 22 meeting, with a possible Board vote on the recommendations at the March 8 Work Session. Information about the proposal and a map showing changes to the ski area will be posted for review on the Seven Lakes West website.

Read more: Larger Ski Area Recommended for Lake Auman

Foxfire LogoFoxfire Village may well wind up with 156 acres of undeveloped land, rather than $1.4 million it needs to pay for the recently completed Woodland Circle Extension project.

Quietly reading from a letter addressed to the Village Council during a Tuesday, February 1 public hearing on the project assesment, Mayor George Erickson reported that John McKeon’s legal trust has offered to give the Village its 156 acres rather than pay its $1.4 milion share of the cost.

In January, McKeon notified the Council, through his attorney, that it was not economically appropriate for him to pay the assessment using the methodology the Council had selected for allocating the cost of the project among affected property owners.

The Council’s plan called for assessing owners based on the total acreage they owned, rather than on a their proprtionate share of actual road frontage.

McKeon asked the Council to reconsider the methodology; however, the Council expressed concern that reversing course on the already approved preliminary assessment could completely negate the original petition that allowed the project to move forward.

Foxfire Village attorney Michael Brough explained that McKeon’s offer to donate the land would, in effect, provide a shorter and quicker process to reach where the Council would eventually end up if the landowner failed to pay his share: foreclosure.

 

Read more: Foxfire may get 156 acres, not $1.4 million

SLLA Logo“Education is crucial to keeping waterways safe,” Sgt. Mark Dutton of NC Wildlife Resources Commission told residents during a special presentation at the North Clubhouse on Wednesday, January 26.

Dutton and fellow Wildlife Officer Gary Caulk attended this hour long ‘meet and greet’ at the invitation of Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Directors Bruce Keyser, Jr. and Chuck Mims, who are spearheading efforts to increase safe boating through education, improved rules and possible enforcement by the state agency.

“Our primary objective is to assist you and make your lakes a safe place for recreation,” explained Dutton. “Does that come with a price? Yes. Let’s not sugarcoat it, but you need to ask yourself some hard questions.”

“Do you want to maintain the quality of life of the place you invested in? Do you want to maintain a safe recreation atmosphere? You need to ask yourself what you’re tying to accomplish,” he said.

Of particular concern in the last year has been an uptick in reports of impaired and reckless boating on Lake Sequoia, the community’s largest lake and, arguably, most important asset.

“We have not taken these concerns lightly and we are looking at ways to curb past problems and prevent future ones,” said Director Keyser. “We want whatever we do to be a positive for the community.”

A first step towards that goal is a Boating Education Course for children and adults scheduled for Sunday, April 10, starting at 1:30 pm in the North Clubhouse. There is no fee to attend, but space is limited to thirty participants.

To register, please contact the SLLA office or visit the NCWRC website for more information on other available classes.


Read more: Wildlife officers explain state’s role on private lakes

Moore County LogoSeven Lakes could be rolled into the moribund Northwest Moore Water District if all the stars align in a creative approach to providing both Seven Lakes and Robbins ratepayers with more, less expensive water.

Public Utilities Director Dennis Brobst sketched out the concept for the Board of Commissioners during their Tuesday, February 1 regular meeting. The Northwest Moore District was created in 2004, on the heels of the county’s successful use of the independent East Moore Water District to extend its water system to residents in the eastern end of the county. Northwest Moore residents voted to borrow up to $16 million to pay to extend water lines and other infrastructure needed to bring county water to the area surrounding water.

But, in the end, not enough homes signed up for county water to make the project viable. That leaves the county with $16 million of borrowing authority that is set to expire in May.

Brobst suggested extending the Northwest Moore Water District to include both Robbins, assuming the town council approves, and Seven Lakes, which has a large enough installed base of water customers to make the District viable. The enlarged District could then borrow the $16 million already approved and use that to build a new water treatment plant in Robbins and pay for a water line to carry water from Robbins to Seven Lakes, where it would join the county system.

The estimated cost of the water line is $3.6 million, Brobst told the Commissioners; a 1.5 million gallon per day treatment plant would likely cost $6-10 million. Brobst noted that the existing Robbins water plant had been out of service for long enough that any attempt to bring it back online would have to meet the same state standards as building a new plant. In either case, the water plant would be fed by the existing reservoir and water intake owned by the Town of Robbins.

 

Read more: Seven Lakes Could Join NW Moore Water District

Moore County Logo

[This report has been updated since its first posting on February 1. The updated paragraphs appear in boldface type.]

The developer of the Dormie Club — and would-be developer of Pine Forest — has failed to meet the job-creation goals called for in a $500,000 grant that helped bring Moore County water to the upscale golf course development under construction off NC Highway 73. But the state agency that provided the funds is more interested in seeing the promised jobs created than in recouping the cash.

The North Carolina Rural Center grant that paid more than one-quarter of the cost of bringing water down NC Highway 73 from Eastwood was predicated on a simple formula: $10,000 per job. Dormie Club developer MHK Ventures, Inc. pledged to create 50 full-time jobs within a year after the project was complete. The deadline was December 31, and the job count stood at 15, not 50, according to Walter J. MacKey, Jr., a principal in MHK.

Responding to a Rural Center request for information on the number of jobs created, MacKey, in a letter to engineering firm Hobbs-Upchurch and Associates, said the development of Dormie Club had “been slowed down by construction delays, the recession, and bad weather.”

While the Dormie Club golf course is substantially complete, the club is operating out of a temporary clubhouse, and no residential properties have been developed. MacKey’s letter indicated another seven employees would be added in March, bringing the job total to twenty-two.

The 13,000 square-foot permanent clubhouse is expected to be finished by mid-2013, and the club will be fully operational by year-end 2013, Mackey writes, at which time it will be able to meet its commitment to provide 50 full-time jobs. The developer notes that his Thistle Golf Club project in Sunset Beach was completed in 2010 and now employs more than 50.

Read more: Dormie Club Misses Job Creation Target

SLLA LogoFormal discussion of a proposed landscape maintenance contract never got off the ground during the Wednesday, January 26 Open Meeting of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] after a rancorous public comment period revealed that the $146,400 proposal had not been reviewed by the Finance Committee, did not have the support of the majority of landowners present, and had not been considered alongside other options, as requested by the Infrastructure Committee.

The question of whether the community is best served by an in-house maintenance department versus a professional outsourced service has been debated on and off for some time, but the Board’s recent decision to solicit bids surprised many, since the topic has not been discussed in any open meetings this year -- including the January 11 Work Session at which the proposed contract was placed on the agenda for a vote.

The last time the Board publicly discussed the idea of outsourcing maintenance was in 2009, following an in-house cost analysis performed by former maintenance supervisor Bob Darr (who is currently running for a seat on the Board). At the time, Darr recommended against outsourcing; and, later that year, the Board postponed any further discussion to allow new management an opportunity to evaluate the department and make its own recommendation.

Speaking during Wednesday night's meeting, Darr said his 2009 analysis, using a methodology approved by the Finance Committee, determined that in-house mowing costs totaled $57,400 annually, including wages, benefits, equipment depreciation, seed, fertilizer, and fuel. The lowest bid solicited in 2009 for the same work totaled $98,000.

Darr questioned the contract now being proposed, which, at $146,4000, is more than two and a half times his estimate for in-house costs.

“At a minimum, I ask you to table this until a timely and thorough analysis can be done -- open and not behind closed doors,” said Darr.

 

Read more: SLLA Maintenance Outsourcing Plan Draws Fire

SLWLA LogoFormally introducing themselves to the voters, the four candidates for the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors provided brief statements during the Tuesday, January 25 Work Session.

Patti Cleary, Jim Ferguson, Jim McCarthy, and Jack Stevens spoke about their backgrounds and reasons for seeking office.

The February 4 edition of The Times will feature more extensive interviews with the candidates.

 

Patti Cleary

Patti Cleary is a native of Lacrosse, WI and is a self-professed “Green Bay Packers fan for life.” Cleary worked in the banking and mortgage industry for more than 35 years while living in Southern California. She and her husband, Ed Tuton, moved to Seven Lakes West in 2002.

An area rep since 2003, Cleary has also been involved in many other organizations, from Lake Patrol to the Lake Auman Sports Club. Outside of Seven Lakes West, she volunteers as a tax preparer for AARP Tax Aide, has served as a poll worker, and is a Master Gardener.

Read more: Westside Candidates Meet the Voters

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...