The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes “And Now For The Rest Of The Story“
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 bookkeeper 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.
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.
The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes
The first part explored the beginnings of Seven Lakes from the earliest vision of a rustic weekend retreat, complete with dirt roads to the thriving community it is today.
We ended the first segment by starting a discussion of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association.
As discussed, Longleaf Incorporated was highly undercapitalized. So, the developers decided to provide a safety net for current and future property owners by organizing an independent homeowners association we all know as the Seven Lakes Landowners Association, today.
Realizing conceptually that Seven Lakes would require future upkeep and operation. the founders felt it was vital that the community could operate regardless of any issues that may be on the financial horizon for the development company.
Options for community operations included an association directed by the developer, directed by the landowners, or no association at all. After visiting several resort communities to compare association concepts, it was clear to the incorporators that the success or failure of property values should not be contingent upon the developer‘s financial health.
With this in mind, The Seven Lakes Landowners Association was formed in May of 1973, by initial incorporators Fred Lawrence, Joe Cline and Alan Shaw.
As a point of interest, one of the original Board members Jeb Koury ultimately became the Sales Director for Real Estate operations for Longleaf and Peter V Tufts when the sales contract with Buddy Makepeace was terminated.
It should be noted that the Planned Community Act which governs Home Owners Associations was not enacted until January of 1999.. So, in effect, our homeowners association was breaking new ground. When the General Statute 47F was enacted, Seven Lakes was not bound by most of the laws in that act.
Yet, the incorporators decided that the best form of government was to be placed in the hands of the property owners and not the developer.
Only property owners would be able to cast a vote and the initial annual dues were only $60 /per annum for approximately 350 owners only producing $30,000 per year. Hence, the development company continued to subsidize the association for many years.
Randy Campbell, who became a very visible real estate salesman in the community, was brought on board, initially to manage the association. Longleaf Inc., entered into a 99 year lease on all facilities and amenities with the SLLA. So, regardless of Longleaf‘s long term success or failure, the association could provide for the continuation of the operation and therefore property values would be consistently maintained.
After several years with various managers a decision was made to hire Talis Co. a professional management organization. Talis were ultimately replaced by the current management company, CAS.
The operation was heavily subsidized by Longleaf up to $150,000 per year..
In 1977, Longleaf laid out a three year plan which summarized their financial exit strategy. The planned exit was to provide $150,00 the first year, $100,000 the second year and $50,000 in year three. They would exit in 1979 with no future financial assistance.
This stand alone concept turned out to be instrumental in maintaining the property valuation and assuring continued operation of the roads and amenities and facilities.
Alan Shaw wanted to especially express his thank you to all of the residents of the community who voluntarily served on the Board of Directors of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association. He acknowledged a rocky relationship where he often referred to the board as well intended amateurs, but, wants to acknowledge without their strong leadership and guidance the community would not be as successful as it has become.
Longleaf Incorporated and Peter V Tufts and Associates sold its interest in the Seven Lakes community in February of 1983. Effectively with the sale of the community, Longleaf Inc., et.al., divested their assets to the new developer which immediately abandoned the North and South sides Real Estate operations to concentrate their sales efforts on the West side now named Beacon Ridge.
Although the new owners the MOR Group and SLS Properties owned a few lots on the North and South sides their primary promotional efforts were based on success of Beacon Ridge, located at the Seven Lakes West golf course community.
Seven Lakes Landowners association ultimately purchased all of the facilities including the roads, clubhouse etc. with the exception of the golf course while they were still under a valid leasehold interestwith Longleaf Inc.
Without an independent and self-funded maintenance and facilities caretakers, the North and South Side would have been a “ship without a rudder“ struggling to stay afloat.
There was a second critical factor that my partner Fred Lawrence provided to Seven Lakes for its ultimate success. Fred had the genius idea of promoting and providing the development of a business footprint.
Fred recognized the need for retail activity and a business village concept to enhance the living characteristics of the community. He formed a partnership to develop what was an abandoned sand pit located at the intersection of NC 211 and what is now Seven Lakes Drive.
The first building was a convenient store where the Exxon station operated until recently ending with the future Hwy 211 road expansion.
This was followed by a restaurant, operated by Dan and Evelyn Fazelle, Lee Moore Insurance Agency by Joe Horney , a medical facility with the first local physician who was guaranteed a minimum income by Longleaf Incorporated, First Bank, Dr John Lawton’s dental office, Elaine Yow Gurgis’s accounting practice, Haney’s tire store, and Lance Horney’s IGA grocery store with more business commitments.
More to come… Next the Seven Lakes Village Shopping story and the beginning of the Peter V Tufts golf course.
The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes
This series includes the triumphs and tragedies at the commencement through fruition of the initial concept of a “weekend retreat with dirt roads“ to the resort development it has become today fifty years later.
These interviews delve into the positive and negative aspects, “warts and all“ of the factual events of the 50 year history of our community
Part III explores additional historical facts that begin circa 1977 and what has transpired in our community, 45 years after the first construction started.
According to Mr. Shaw, one of Fred Lawrence’s personality traits did not include patience. Perhaps Seven Lakes would never have come to fruition had he been a patient person.
In the case of the shopping village, his lack of patience is responsible for the negatives we all see today in that area. He simply ignored the advice of his business partners and moved forward too quickly.
On the North Side of what is now Seven Lakes drive, the entire area was simply platted on maps, surveyed, and sold. None of the planning that was involved in any of the residential area was done in the village.
There was little to no consideration for infrastructure which would include storm drainage, there were no restrictions on what could be built (no county zoning existed at that time), and there was not a plan to insure continuing funding of maintenance for the road network.
Lot sizes were too small to provide adequate septic space for many small requirements and certainly cannot meet the needs of larger users like restaurants.
The South side of what is now Seven Lakes Drive starting at the Food Lion complex and going to the start of the subdivision was sold as a block to a group of local investors.
The planning, restrictions, and maintenance agreements were established and is evidenced by the condition of that property in comparison to the property located on the North side of Seven Lakes Drive.
Some may remember that the builder/developer who bought the property to build a building to lease to Food Lion, originally bought the parcel of land that the Seven Lakes Baptist Church is located now. The residents of Seven Lakes South whose property backed up to that parcel effectively lobbied the Food Lion headquarters to not allow that to be their Seven Lakes location.
The builder/developer then worked out a deal for the land the Food Lion is currently located. Interestingly, the land was not as level as the first parcel so the builder/developer negotiated a significant price decrease claiming that hundreds of loads of fill would need to be brought to the site to level it for their use. After site
work started, it was obvious that the builder/developer was not going to bring in fill dirt but rather was going to cut the front of the parcel down and move it to the back of the property. So, the drop in elevation that exist between Sandhills Winery and the Food Lion was created.
Now turning to the history of what is now known as Seven Lakes South. As was noted in the first installment, there was 189 acres from the original tract purchased located on the South Side of the county road now known as Seven Lakes Dr.
According to Alan Shaw, a funny side story is in the original planning, the property was to be developed as part of Seven Lakes and contained one of the original seven Lakes.
When it was decided to reserve the area for a future golf course, a seventh lake site had to be found because of our already established name.
Dogwood Lakes was born, and approximately one acre pond was dug on the extreme Northeastern portion of Seven Lakes property.
Harris Blake, West End native, Moore County leader, State Senator, ardent supporter, and believer in Seven Lakes introduced Fred Lawrence to Peter V Tufts.
Pete’s family were the founders of Pinehurst and the family sold the town with the golf courses and surrounding 9,000 acres to Diamond Head corporation. Pete was planning on designing and building golf courses. Harris Blake thought this would be a perfect fit. After the initial meeting with Blake, Lawrence, and Tufts, Fred brought Pete in to meet with Alan Shaw.
To Fred’s surprise Alan Shaw and Pete Tufts had known each other for years, and had worked together organizing USGA golf tournaments at Quail Ridge Golf Club in Sanford. Alan as the club manager and Pete as a USGA official.
The Limited partnership known as Peter V Tufts and Associates was now born.
Additional land had to be acquired because the 189 acres was enough land for a golf course, but did not provide enough additional acreage for real estate development that was essential to pay for construction and produce a profit.
Valuable lessons were learned from the formation of Longleaf Inc.
Longleaf mistakenly sold the best lots as part of the capitalization, so the partnership interests were sold bearing a credit towards the purchase of a lot.
The resulting discount, when applied would result in a purchase price of about 70% of retail value.
Even though the partners improved upon their first business model, the first, foremost and mandatory rule in the formation and capitalization of a new business was broken and not achieved.
Adequate capitalization would be a determining factor in the future success of the development.
The new development was begun with less than 25% of the funds necessary to complete the project.
Of course, the purchase from Longleaf Incorporated of the 189 acres provide much needed capital for Longleaf.
An additional 325 acres =/- was acquired, Pete Tufts started work on the golf course design and once again an important cog in the Seven Lakes history, Jim Pate, the design engineer was hired to do the planning.
Pete turned in his final golf course design to Jim Pate for land planning and things really got interesting.
The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes
Through extensive interviews with the former President of Longleaf Incorporated and General Partner in Peter V Tufts and Associates, the two original developers of Seven Lakes North, Seven Lakes South, and Seven Lakes West we were able to ascertain the factual history of Seven Lakes.
The series includes the triumphs and tragedies at the commencement through fruition of the initial concept of a “weekend retreat with dirt roads“ to the resort development it has become today fifty years later.
These interviews delve into the positive and negative aspects, “warts and all“ of the factual events of the 50 year history of our community.
Peter Tufts turned in his final course design for what would be Seven Lakes Golf Club. There was some discussion about the course being called “Tuftstown” which was the name considered when Pinehurst was originally named by Peter Tufts great grandfather James Walker Tufts, the founder of Pinehurst. All parties agreed that Seven Lakes Country Club would better serve marketing purposes.
Initially, the agreement with Peter Tufts was that he would own and operate the golf course. Ultimately, Tufts decided that he did not want that responsibility, so the ownership was retained by the developer, Peter V Tufts and Associates, a limited partnership.
Jim Pate, project engineer and land planner, started evaluating the course layout considering the real estate development options. After Pate complete his initial review, he contacted Alan Shaw and asked Shaw to come to his Sanford office.
Much to the surprise of Shaw, Pate presented a compelling argument as to why the final Tufts plan could not work. The design did not provide the opportunity to develop enough homesites adjacent to fairways. Tufts had designed a course that had fairways adjacent to wetlands and a number of fairways that would be essentially side-by-side. The number of “fairway” lots available simply would not justify the cost of building a golf course.
Shaw was careful to make it clear in our interviews the fact that Tufts was given the entire property to create his design. So, Shaw said he should have been more careful instructing Tufts about the real estate requirements to make the project viable.
Shaw was then faced with the unpleasant task of talking with Tufts. “I was really very pleasantly surprised at how well Pete accepted our findings”.
What happened next is little known. Jim Pate, Peter Tufts, Joe Cline and Alan Shaw spent the next 10 days in Pate’s office re-routing the golf course that was Tuft’s “final” layout. The results of those 10 days were a new routing that was acceptable to Tufts and worked from a real estate development perspective.
While the routing of the course has significant input from others, the construction of the course with greens, tees, bunker shapes and design was Tufts responsibility. Tufts got a huge helping hand from an equipment operator who had worked for Ellis Maples and other golf course contractors. John Williams from the Eagle Springs area had a major impact on the final product. He was an artist on a bulldozer.
July 4, 1976 was opening day and the golf course and was greeted with much acclaim.
Before all the federal and state registration requirements were met for land sales to commence, there was a change in the marketing of real estate in the entire subdivision. In previous articles, the sales contract was discussed. Unfortunately, that relationship could not be continued. A company owned marketing office was established and Jeb Koury was named the sales manager.
It was clear that the scope of marketing area needed to be enlarged. The marketing direction under the leadership of Jeb Koury was instrumental in the Seven Lakes community becoming a place to live and raise families as well as a place for second homes and retirement homes. His marketing efforts attracted future property owners from the Northeast and States east of the Mississippi.
Marketing sought to have North Carolina road signs in the area to include directions to Seven Lakes. Mary Featherston, who unofficially served as community social director, was responsible for getting that accomplished. She found to have road signs erected, you first had to be on the official state map. She made that happen. Seven Lakes was now on the map!
And then came Jimmy Carter, 22% interest rates and more long gas lines. Reflecting on those days, Alan Shaw is still amazed that the development was not forced into bankruptcy. As previously noted, the developing companies were poorly capitalized. To get to this point, significant funds were borrowed from a wide range of local lenders. There was no path to meeting the debt obligations on time. Fred Lawrence and Alan Shaw spent much of their time communicating with the lenders and building relationships that resulted in the lenders and creditors working with the developers to avoid bankruptcy.
The late 1970’s saw gradual growth and significant struggles. The Pilot and Ann Cline Norris Bass wrote significantly about Fred Lawrence’s Security and Exchange violations.
As with her reported credentials, Bass was misleading as it relates to the 50-year History of Seven Lakes. The SEC made an inquiry in the late 70’s and ultimately found violations of securities laws. There were no criminal charges brought and there were no fines. There was a cease-and-desist order filed.
The violations were cured by a complete SEC filing that raised additional capital and disclosed past violations. Serious issues that Mr. Lawrence had with the SEC were after he was no longer involved with the Seven Lakes development in management or ownership and should not be included in the 50-year history of Seven lakes.
Next, we explore and examine Seven Lakes West and the importance of a date in February of 1983. Triumph and Tragedy!
To further examine the illustrious 50 year history of Seven Lakes, we will offer an additional 6th part to this series and wish to thank Alan Shaw for agreeing to all of the additional in depth interviews required to offer our readers the concise and factual historical perspective of the formative years.
The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes
This is the part of the history of Seen Lakes that has Triumph and Tragedy. Also, critical date in February of 1983.
Located west of highway 211 at the intersection of Seven Lakes Drive with 211, there was three large tracts of land that were adjacent to each other. Two of the large tracks, about 1000 acres each, were owned by West End residents Clyde Auman and Billy Johnson. The other large track of about 600 acres was owned by Johnson’s brother-in-law from Atlanta. Shaw does not remember his first name, but his last name was Morgan.
Topographic maps indicated that with the addition of several smaller tracts of land there was a natural lake basin that would impound about 1000 acres of water. The challenge was that it would require a dam of significant length and about 100 feet high. Fred Lawrence was convinced that this was doable and would provide the path to financial success for the developing company Longleaf Incorporated, the North Side developing company.
Lawrence was sure this was the correct path, he entered contracts with the 3 major property owners to buy their land without bringing the issue to a Board of Directors. Shaw is unsure if Lawrence consulted with Joe Cline, one of the original partners, but is certain that he was not consulted prior to contracts being entered and pre-sales starting. The original Seven Lakes was sold on a promise and Seven Lakes West property was going to be the same.
Once again, Jim Pate, who Shaw says was the most influential, non-partner in the development of Seven Lakes was contracted to do the land planning, find specialty dam engineers to design the dam, and oversee the construction project as an engineer.
Pate died in the early 2000’s without having the opportunity to see the near buildout of the community he designed. While, recognizing that Pate was doing the professional job he was hired to do, Shaw simply says that Pate does not receive enough credit for the product that he and his team at Pate-Mullins PA produced.
There was considerable disagreement primarily between Shaw and Lawrence about the development of Seven Lakes West being undertaken. This ultimately resulted in Lawrence stepping down as President of Longleaf Incorporated and Shaw taking that position reluctantly.
The die had been cast before the transition in management, lakefront lots were pre-sold at a price of $10,000. A master list was assembled with a picking order for lots determined by the date and time the purchase was made. Ultimately, there were a few more than 500 lots around an 881 acre +/- lake. Quick arithmetic comes to those lots producing a bit over $5,000,000. The elephant in the room was the cost of developing the West Side would ultimately exceed $12,000,000.
While the initial impact on the developing company was to provide short-term cash relief, the long-term impact was on a path of almost certain failure of the developing company. The future of Longleaf Incorporated and the completion of Seven Lakes West was uncertain at best.
Shaw said that one of the more difficult days for him was making a presentation to the Board of Directors of Longleaf Incorporated were he laid out the hard financial reality. Three options were presented to the Board of Directors. 1st finding a buyer, 2nd finding significant master financing, 3rd declaring bankruptcy.
Given the circumstances, bankruptcy was the most likely outcome. Lawrence likely disagreed with Shaw’s assessment but backed it with the Board to the extent, with his extensive sales contacts, he looked for prospective buyers. After about 18 months of trying to find financing to complete the project to no avail, Lawrence found a prospective buyer.
Seven Lakes West had the potential of being a magnificent property if only someone could get to the finish line with the construction.
Interstate sales registration was completed and lake construction had commenced with significant progress made on dam construction. Roads inside of the main loop, Longleaf Dr. were mostly completed. Unlike with Seven Lakes North, the original intent was to pave the roads. The HUD registration filing looked like a disaster area as it reflected on every intended amenity with the disclaimer that there was “ NO FINANCIAL ASSURANCE of COMPLETION” Sales efforts for unsold, mostly lake view properties, actually were surprisingly good.
With the developer marketing of the property, local realtors were mostly shutout from sales. This strategy played an important role in staying out of bankruptcy.
In a future article, Shaw will discuss how important the real estate brokerage community was in the successful marketing of the property during later years. But, for the current situation, it was important that the sales largely be controlled internally. The reason for the need for control was very simple. The marketing efforts required significant expense because of the large geographical area that was being marketed. Sales expense with advertising, sales commissions, office overhead, and rental homes for clients averaged about $7,500 per retail sale averaging $25,000, or 25%. If local realtors simply picked off the prospective buyer once the developer had gotten them here, it could not be sustainable. The resale inventory was the best lakefront property, the developer had to control the market rather than encourage mass listings of the best property which was originally purchased for 10K a lot to hit the open market.
So, what was the tragedy and triumph? The triumph was an amazing property and the tragedy was failure of the original developer to see it to completion. What was the significance of February of 1983? The sale of all the assets of the community owned by Longleaf Incorporated and Peter V Tufts and Associates, the original developers, was completed.
Two companies formed by brothers John and Jim Pridgen bought all the assets of Longleaf Incorporated and Peter V Tufts and Associates. The purchase price: assuming all the liabilities of both companies. The two original companies were both dissolved in accordance with North Carolina laws.
Three of the four principles Fred Lawrence, Alan Shaw, and Peter Tufts were not involved in the new companies nor with each other in business. Joe Cline worked for the new companies for a brief time but was not involved in management decisions for the new developers. Fred Lawrence was still involved in the management of the Seven Lakes commercial area which was not part of the sale to the Pridgen’s.
Daily operations were now in the hands of John Pridgen who was on site and company lawyer and significant consultant Donald Billings.
A new day and a new direction for Seven Lakes.
Next the rest of the story!
The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes
So, there is a new day and a new direction for Seven Lakes with new ownership. John and Jim Pridgen brought excitement with the hope that everyone’s vision of what they wanted in the community would be realized. The dream that was Fred Lawrence’s 14 years earlier, when he discovered the area while bird hunting, was going to be completed as planned. At least that was everyone’s hope.
John Pridgen was a civil engineer and almost immediately he was joined on property by Winston-Salem based lawyer, Don Billings. The community welcomed a new and very good restaurant in the Seven Lakes Country Club. The name of the restaurant was Aleene’s.
The golf course continued to be operated by the developers and property sales were handled by the company owned sales program. Most importantly, construction on the dam which would impound 881 acres of water continued and was completed. The lake was known as Lake Auman. It was named after Clyde Auman who was a civic leader in West End and served in the North Carolina House of Representatives for years. He was also one of the major landowners of the property that became Seven Lakes West.
The Lakes of Seven Lakes were the most important asset of the community. The development essentially was built around them and they were and are magnificent. Lake Auman is the gem of the group and arguably the most magnificent privately developed man-made lake in the Southeast, if not the country.
Within months of the Pridgen’s buying the property, there were disagreements between the two brothers as to how to move forward. Alan Shaw said it would not be fair for me to explore those disagreements because I was not on the inside to know the full details.
Shaw said that he got a call from Don Billings indicating that Jim Pridgen and John Pridgen where going to separate. Billings indicated to Shaw that he should support John Pridgen remaining as the developer rather than supporting Jim Pridgen’s side. Shaw indicated that his support meant nothing other than as a secured creditor. This was a difficult situation because it was believed that Jim Pridgen had the contacts to secure the funding needed to finish development of the community. John Pridgen survived the internal conflicts and Jim Pridgen had little or nothing to do with Seven Lakes as early as 1984.
Soon after the breakup, the core sales team that had been a part of Seven Lakes from the start in 1972 resigned and formed an independent real estate office located in Seven Lakes Village. This was an important first step toward the ultimate success of Seven Lakes. We will return to this a bit later in our history.
Progress was made toward build-out during the next 3 years. The North Side and South Side were taking on the appearance of mature subdivisions with many homes both full time residents and second homes.
The quality of the property/homeowner had always been a very significant factor in making Seven Lakes a desirable location to live or visit. Shaw was effusive in his praise of the participation of everyone that lived in the community to make it a better place. From being friendly and good neighbors to pitching in to make community projects and events successful, there was a core group that not only participated but made it their goal to make a difference in the quality of life for those living in the community. This was contagious and coupled with the beauty and conveniences located nearby created a special place for all demographics from young couples to retirees.
Yet, there was failure ahead for the developer. Bankruptcy was filed by the Pridgen developing companies in 1987. As often is the case, this created uncertainty before there was clarity. Don Billings presented a re-organization that the bankruptcy court ultimately approved. Expenses of bankruptcy were paid from funds generated by the sale of Seven Lakes Country Club to a group of members who formed for that purpose. At peak, the membership of Seven Lakes Country Club was around 600 and it was a hub for community activities for its members.
Without the golf course and few remaining lots in company inventory on the South and North sides, Billings directed his entire efforts toward development of the West Side. The Seven Lakes Landowners Association, who had a 99-year lease on all of the roads and facilities (other than the golf course) bought these from Billings company.
With no active developer for the North and South sides, the Seven Lakes Landowners Association became most important to the continued success of the community as a recreational residential subdivision.
Seven Lakes West was to be rebranded as Beacon Ridge at Seven Lakes West. A golf course that was started during the Pridgen years was completed by Billings and named Beacon Ridge. The developer had homesites around the golf course in addition to a significant inventory of forest and view homesites around Lake Auman. As previously noted, lakefront homesites were all sold.
Billings made a decision that has had a profound impact on homesite values. He controlled, in fact was the Architectural Review Board for Seven Lakes West for several years. While the covenants written in 1979 allowed for homes to be a minimum of 1375 Sq. ft. on the main floor, Billings made the decision to significantly increase those minimums. He could do that by simply refusing to approve smaller homes.
The beauty of the lake with such pure clear water and amazing homesites would have been significantly undervalued had it not been for Billings decision. He required minimums exceeding 3500 sq ft and implemented architectural design that would maximize curb appeal. Without larger and more expensive homes being required, values of homesites would have never reached present levels.
Today there is over a billion dollars in Tax value in the Seven Lakes Community. There are over 5,000 people living in Seven Lakes with over 2500 homes. The Seven Lakes Shopping village has a full complement of necessary and convenient services. Including Doctors, Lawyers, Mechanics, Accountants, Real Estate Brokers, Physical Therapist, Financial Advisors, Boat sales and service, Automobile Collision Shops, Grocery Store, Restaurants, Insurance Agencies, Wine Store, Carpet Store, Antique Store, Hardware Stores, Drug Stores, Churches, Barber Shop, Beauty Shop, Convenience Store, Plumbing Office, Heating and Air Conditioning Businesses Kennel, Banks, and various other office and services.
There are many reasons that our community has not only survived but has flourished during its 50-year history. In the last article we indicated this article would be the last in our series on the 50-year history of Seven Lakes. We are taking our literary license mulligan! Next month, the final chapter and the conclusion of the “rest of the Story”
The 50 Year Saga Of Seven Lakes “And Now For The Rest Of The Story“
In the last article we indicated this article would be the last in our series on the 50-year history of Seven Lakes.
We are taking our literary license mulligan! This month, the final chapter and the conclusion of the “Rest of the Story”.
The billion dollars of tax value primarily consists of =/+ half acre lots with homes of various designs and sizes and the commercial area.
Yet, another part of the appeal of our community is that there is a place (Morgan Woods) that you can buy acreage. This area is approximately 500 acres located in the Southwest corner of Seven Lakes West. These tracts are primarily 4 to 5 acres and provide an attractive alternative to the more conventional lot.
There are many reasons that our community has not only survived but has flourished during its 50-year history.
A robust Real Estate Brokerage community has been an integral part of that success. As the developers have phased out for various reasons discussed in this series of articles, the Real Estate Brokerage community has provided a market maker for all the homes and homesites.
In the early days of Seven Lakes, the growth in population in Moore County was significantly lower in both raw numbers and percentage growth than in the last 20 years.
That growth has resulted in an amazing increase in the number of real estate businesses and agents. The marketing of Seven Lakes in the early years reached out primarily to cities and states in the North East and resulted in prospective buyers coming directly to a company owned real estate center. There was very little marketing energy created by Moore County area brokers or agents.
As the growth numbers increased, both in people moving to the area and also in brokers and agents, the need for inventory expanded significantly and the Seven Lakes community was recognized by all as the best option.
So, the brokerage community became an advertising and promotional arm for Seven Lakes. One can ask, why Seven Lakes rather than other area communities?
The answer to that question is primarily a 3-part answer. First, the quality of the people that already were in Seven Lakes. Second, the beauty of the community along with the recreational facilities. Thirdly, all the support infrastructure located in the Seven Lakes commercial area.
Another reason the community has survived is the people that were living in the community. Shaw said that he hesitates to name names because of the fear of missing so many that made significant contributions.
Yet, with apologies to those that he misses, he agreed to name a few in no special order.
Joe Cline was one of the original partners. His contribution was far greater than as an original developer. He was involved in every social event as a worker bee.
Buddy and Peggy Makepeace relocated their family from Sanford to become the face of the community in their sales office.
They also actively participated in making the community a caring friendly place to live. Bobbie and Dawson Carr were the first non-employee homeowner and took the risk building when the roads were dirt and dusty.
Lou and Mary Featherston moved from Durham and became stalwarts promoting our community and organizing events. Jane and Tom Hines retired here from Raleigh only to find full time jobs volunteering to assist and every community event.
Ditto that for Bob and Lib Kollman, Don and Vi Everhart, and Nancey Appen. Many folks make the decision to move their businesses or start new one’s in our village. Clawson Williams, Joe Horney, Dan and Evelyn Faezille, John Lauten, Lance Horney, Elaine Yow Girgis, Chess Haney, Sam and Jo Copper, Bill Patman, , Phillip Brown, Dr. Hal Tarleton, and Ronnie Graham were among the first to make the commitment to live and work in our community.
Most of the sales team moved here with their families. They include Jeb Koury, Randy Campbell, Phil Harrell, and Mary Ann Hall.
There was a combination of all different demographics coming together to live in a beautiful area as good friends and neighbors. The success of the community is a testament to the people that live here.
With all the difficulties getting to this point in the development process, our community had and has become the hottest real estate market area in the county.
The Landowners Associations both the SLLA and the SLWLA have done a remarkable job in operation and maintaining the recreational assets and the roads.
It must be noted that individuals that have settled here are responsible for the operation of the Community Associations. Board of Directors and committee members are volunteers and serve our community without pay and far too few “thank you’s”.
It is impossible to overstate the value of the landowner associations. Without their operational guidance including rules, oversight, and facility management, our community would not exist as we know it today.
Shaw ask to editorialize with this statement: “As good a job as the homeowner’s associations have done over the years, Incorporation is required for the community to thrive another 50 years.
We are simply too large with too many infrastructure issues.
Working through these challenging issues without the ability to tax is not a path that should be chosen. In fairness, that tax must be done on an ad valorem basis which an incorporation does to meet the needs of its residents and property owners”.
The landowner’s association can continue to operate the facilities as private property and will have significant funding available from budget items of security and road maintenance that can be assumed by the incorporated town.”
A final tribute.
Alan Shaw has told the story of Seven Lakes from a view from the inside for 11 years during the infancy and formation and having lived here for almost the entire 50 years of the existence of the community.
He has been painfully direct and made no attempt to gaslight our readers. He closes with this comment:
“Without Fred R Lawrence, none of this would have happen. A genuine sincere thanks and tip of the hat to him for a community that is simply an amazing place to work and live”.
Seven Lakes News