REPRINTED FROM SEVEN LAKES NEWS SEPTEMBER EDITION 2022
Our headline was a quote that ended every broadcast of famous radio announcer, Paul Harvey. This is the first part in a five part series.
With the birthday of Seven Lakes on the horizon I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Alan Shaw, one of the original developers at his lovely home located in Seven Lakes.
In the determination of a historical perspective, the old rule of Herodotus applies – if you want to find out what happened at a certain time and place, then search for people who were actually there and listen to what they have to say.
I decided to find a different perspective to enlighten our readers by speaking to the the former President of Longleaf Incorporated and a General Partner in Peter V Tufts and Associates, the two original developers of Seven Lakes North, Seven Lakes South, and Seven Lakes West. Alan Shaw when approached had this to say: “I chose SL News to tell the factual story of Seven Lakes due to their continued commitment and contributions to our community and being a definitive source for information. I am confident my story would be told in an unabridged version, warts and all. I‘ve avoided interviews for a very long time. I recently read the history in the Pilot and the article in the Seven Lakes Insider and was very disappointed in the way they handled it.“
The source for the articles was a disgraced and disgruntled former employee, Ms. Ann Cline Norris Bass. If Ms. Bass requires further clarification as to why I‘ve called her disgraced and disgruntled, I will be happy to provide this information to SL News for publication.“
One of the things that disturbed me the most, was that it was represented and provided by the Insider writers or Ms. Bass that she was the Chief Financial Officer of both Longleaf Inc. and CFO of Peter V. Tufts & Assoc. and she was also a CPA, (certified public accountant). She was only the Treasurer of Longleaf Incorporated and had absolutely no management responsibilities of the two organizations. Furthermore, I researched and completed a statewide search of records and found no indication that Ms. Bass was ever a CPA under any of her various last names in her untruthful claims.
Often a Treasurer is a glorified bookeeper unable by law to certify or audit a corporation‘s financial statements to verify an accurate portrayal of a firm‘s financial condition to the general public. This was Mrs. Cline Norris Bass. It would be a far reach for her to portray herself as a CFO. According to the article in the Seven Lakes Insider, written by Maggie Beamguard, Insider Editor and Laura Douglas contributing writer, ”Ann Cline Norris Bass, a retired certified public accountant and an original Seven Lakes insider, memorialized the history of the early years of the development in a 2009 book, “Seven Lakes: A Place in the Sun.” Alan Shaw says he has not read the book but he will provide an accurate history of the inception and development of the Seven Lakes community to the SL News.
Now for the History Of Seven Lakes…
”I was an original stockholder in Longleaf Inc. formed in 1971 and a General Partner of Peter V. Tufts & Assoc. which began in 1974. I started working with the Seven Lakes community in February of 1973. It is indeed true that Fred Lawrence discovered the property while bird hunting. Fred was truly the founder of Seven Lakes. Fred formed a limited partnership with a Sanford business man Clyde Rhyne to purchase the original tract of land, approximately 1,100 acres which was located on the North and 190 acres on South side of Seven Lakes Drive as an investment in land without the intent to develop. The original investors bought shares worth $5,000 and received $10,000 upon the sale of the land. The buyer of the land was Longleaf Incorporated which was formed by the same Fred Lawrence that formed the group that purchased the land originally.
Fred Lawrence put the new group together to develop the land with an investment of $3,000 per share of stock and intended to develop a “rustic weekend retreat, with dirt roads.“ With the $3,000 investment each stockholder was to receive a warrant to purchase lakefront property for $750.00 and a non lakefront lot for $1.00
Longleaf Inc. was the development company for the rustic weekend retreats. Restrictive covenants were written that allowed as small as 800 square feet on 1/2 acre lots so there was no thought of the land being turned into a “resort.“ Longleaf Inc. was capitalized with the original investor shares of $3,000 which was a recipe for a future disaster as the concept later changed from weekend retreat to resort property.
One of the really great moves that Fred made insuring that the property would be professionally developed, was hiring an architectural engineering firm located in Sanford, Pate-Mullins Company. Jim Pate an engineer commenced to begin the land planning, platting, surveying and design. The design would feature seven lakes on the property. Daryl Mullins provided the architectural concept for the retreat. Fred’s best friend, Joe Cline, joined with Fred and was essentially the construction foreman for the development.
They had to add additional acres to the original tract to provide for the lake size contemplated by the master plan design. The inherent problem was that all of the prime property had been “gutted“ whereby the $3,000 that capitalized Longleaf and the warrants were able to be exercised for a mere $750.00 for prime lakefront lots.
The original business model may have succeeded with the initial retreat concept with virtually no amenities and dirt roads. But the initial vision grew. Financial success of the development company was a distant dream from the point the concept changed from weekend retreat to resort property. Anyone in the development business realizes that the best properties are sold last to get the highest returns. The best properties in Seven Lakes were already sold at subprime prices. This set up the demise of the development company, Longleaf which was highly undercapitalized to develop the infrastructure that would be a prerequisite for the future development of a resort concept.
W.R. “Buddy“ Makepeace and wife Peggy a current resident of Seven Lakes were hired as the initial Broker of Record to head up the Sales and Marketing team to sell the fully HUD registered lots. They received 25% for sales and marketing which was an industry average for resort properties. This would result in an effort to market regionally in the South and Northeast quadrants of the U.S. The new pricing averaged $6,500 for non-view forest lots to $20,000 for the few lakefront lots that remained. Buddy did a magnificent job with development lot sales averaging 20-25 lots for approximately $200,000 per month once sales started until the gas lines arrived in 1977-78 accompanied by inflation and high interest rates. Unfortunately, most of the lots were purchased with 10-15% down and the balance financed over 7 years.
On the positive side, prior to the first lot sale was the forethought and formation of an independent HOA company, the SLLA. This provided a safety net for the people that purchased property in case the developer was not able to continue because of financial difficulties.
By: Victoria Levinger
To be continued…
Note: Attempts to reach both Maggie Beamguard, Insider Editor and Laura Douglas contributing writer by Mr. Shaw for comment on the article published by the Pilot, owner of the Insider in which the erroneous story was published, were unsuccessful.