Bright’s Creek reworks agreement with land group to reduce debt

Published 12:49 pm Friday, May 22, 2009

The Bright&squo;s Creek Golf Club now has 257 members and the development has sold 325 lots since sales began in 2004. There are 29 completed homes in the development and five under construction.

There are 130 unsold lots in the development&squo;s inventory now and Bright&squo;s Creek director of sales and marketing Tom Harris said enough land remains with the developer to plat another 100-to-150 lots. Taken together, that&squo;s inventory enough for perhaps a couple years in the current economic climate.

Furthermore, the land investors have given the developer the option/first right of refusal to repurchase the 3,200 acres, as needed, to continue additional phases of the Bright&squo;s Creek Golf Club development.

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&dquo;This is in everyone&squo;s best interest,&dquo; Tuck said. &dquo;This frees the developers to run with what they have. In the long run this is a positive for the project. It is really relieving Bright&squo;s Creek of a huge obligation.&dquo;

In addition to leading the Hidden Springs Holdings LLC land holding group, Tuck, developer of Forest Creek Golf Club in Pinehurst, N.C., was also the principal-in-charge operating the development as a partner with Bill Amick in Bright&squo;s Creek Holdings LLC.

Last year, however, Tuck stepped down and Amick took over as the primary owner and principal in the development. Amick is the former chairman and CEO of Amick Farms, sellers of premium chicken products based in Batesburg-Leesville, S.C.

Director of sales Harris is also one of the 28 original land investors in Hidden Springs Holdings LLC. He said he sees the transaction from both sides.

&dquo;The recent modification of the agreement between Bright&squo;s Creek Holdings and Hidden Springs is more of a continuation of the original concept between the parties,&dquo; Harris said.

Although the past couple of years have been brutal in the real estate industry, Bright&squo;s Creek is in a good position in the market, Harris said, &dquo;fortunately having a championship golf course, an award-winning equestrian center and utilities, streets and home sites developed.

&dquo;We actually have gained some breathing room&dquo; over the competition, he said.

Bright&squo;s Creek is marketing lots for between $175,000 and $1 million.

Bright&squo;s Creek&squo;s 257 members include the 28 founding members in the Hidden Springs Holdings LLC, all of whom own lots.

Until the 18-hole Tom Fazio golf course was completed in April, 2006 the developers sold charter memberships, bringing in another 180 members and lot owners.

Estimates are that it will take 100 to 200 more members before the golf club will be self-sustaining.

In addition to the golf course, an interim clubhouse is in place, the Members&squo; Lodge, with food service for about 65. Ten condominiums are also for sale in two buildings next to the Member&squo;s Lodge, each with fully furnished two-bedroom units selling for $715,000 and 4-bedroom units selling for $1.3 million.

Harris said what is planned next is a fitness, pool and tennis center.

&dquo;It will be important to members and prospects,&dquo; Harris said. &dquo;But it is a tentative time to be out there spending a couple million on new amenities.&dquo;

Local real estate watchers note that a road through the passes to Hendersonville also might help sales at Bright&squo;s Creek.

Harris said bids were sought and received to build a road through the former Dalton tract, a 265-acre pasture and orchard purchased in July, 2006, property that will remain with Bright&squo;s Creek Holdings Inc.

A road through that pasture, if built, would connect over to Summer and Gilliam Mountain roads in Henderson County, and would provide a route with 18 minutes drive time to the interchange of I-26 and Hwy. 64 (Four Seasons Boulevard) from the western side of Bright&squo;s Creek.

But that drive time would only be better for those living at Bright&squo;s Creek&squo;s mid-mountain and higher elevations. The need was not great enough to justify the expense just now, Harris said.

&dquo;We completed the Charter Membership offering in early 2006 and spent most of the year until September closing the many Charter and Founding member lots,&dquo; Harris said. &dquo;We began closing lots to non Charter Members in the fall of 2006. 2007 was the first full year of marketing to the public.&dquo;

&dquo;We felt the real estate market starting to slow late in 2006,&dquo; Harris said. &dquo;2007 was a nervous year for buyers because the real estate market was still slowing but sales were still happening. 2008 was a year where traffic was okay but prospective buyers were not making decisions. There were too many negative happenings in the financial market and the real estate market had not bottomed.&dquo;

As for the market in coming months, Harris said he believes the remainder of 2009 will be &dquo;a challenging year.&dquo;

&dquo;The attitude of buyers is better,&dquo; he said. &dquo;Now they are trying to find out how to buy, rather than listing reasons not to. 2010 will be a pretty good year.&dquo;

Tuck said he also believes Bright&squo;s Creek is in a good position.

&dquo;This is a proven project, with 325 lots sold,&dquo; Tuck said. &dquo;Appraisals are holding up. The second home market is not gone. We will not see speculators like you used to, but Western North Carolina is one of the best places to live. Once people get through the shock, they will start buying back second homes and retirement homes.&dquo;

Amick agreed. &dquo;We are very optimistic that Bright&squo;s Creek will be postured for success as we complete all modifications to our strategic plan,&dquo; Amick said.