While frequently at odds over the location, size, and construction scheduling of the new Public Safety and Detention Center complex in downtown Carthage, the five member Board of County Commissioners recently found themselves on common ground -- unanimously approving a resolution that prohibits housing Federal inmates in Moore County, except as required by law.
Image    The $29.2 million detention center has drawn concern from local residents that some of its 192 beds could be used to house Federal prisoners; however, a straw poll conducted by Commissioner Nick Picerno revealed universal opposition to such action from all five commissioners.
    As initially drafted, the resolution only restricted Federal inmates at the new facility, but Chairman Tim Lea asked for the text to be amended to include restrictions at both the old and new jail facilities in Carthage.
    County Attorney Misty Leland cautioned the commissioners that local law cannot supersede Federal law and explained that exceptions to the resolution would include Federal inmates held for extradition or those held for committing a Federal crime in Moore County.
    During Public Comment, Carthage resident Burt Patrick spoke against the resolution arguing that, in previous meetings, Chief Deputy Neil Godfrey, of the Moore County Sheriff’s Office, has repeatedly stated that Federal prisoners cannot be housed in Moore County without the Board’s permission.
    In addition, Patrick addressed the proposed $52 million bond that will be used to construct the new county facilities. She said her research on the status of the county’s application with the local government commission, found that the bond request totaled $32.8 million, with a total indebtedness of $29 million.
    “I don’t understand why the numbers don’t jibe," Patrick said. "It is your moral obligation to taxpayers to have your numbers straight.”


Read more: Commissioners: New Jail WIll Not House Federal Prisoners

    The incorporation of Seven Lakes would provide Seven Lakes West property owners little gain, higher taxes, and less say in how things are done, Seven Lakes West Landowners Association Vice President John Hoffmann reported to Westside Landowners during the Board's Tuesday. October 26 Work Session.
Image    Hoffmann's comment was offered as the conclusion reached by a Board subcommittee investigating the impact of incorporation on safety and security in Seven Lakes West. A copy of the committee's report is available here.
    Hoffmann said the eleven-man committee began its work with a brainstorming session aimed at surfacing the key safety and security issues, which included the value of the gates, the likely cost of a Seven Lakes municipal police department, and the impact of wider access to the community's streets if the gates are taken down, among other issues.
    Guards and gates currently cost the Association about $155,000 per year, Hoffmann said. And, according to  Moore County Sheriff Lane Carter, they do provide an effective deterrent to crime.
    Quoting information provided by Carter, Hoffmann said Seven Lakes is home to about 10 percent of Moore County's population, but accounts for only 1.7 percent of calls to the Sheriff's Office. "According to the Sheriff," Hoffmann said, "gates keep the bad guys out."
    Of the 97 crimes reported in the Seven Lakes area in 2009, Hofmann, said, only 13 were in Seven Lakes West. Only 5 of the 144 Seven Lakes crimes reported in Seven Lakes in 2008 took place in Seven Lakes West.
    Both groups that have floated proposals for incorporating Seven Lakes have underestimated the cost of providing police protection, the subcommittee found. Using budgets from five different area police departments, they estimate that an eight-person police department would cost just over $700,000 per year.
    Having access to such a police force would likely improve response times to incidents, Hoffmann said. However, that increased response time comes at a considerable cost likely to generate higher taxes. And incorporating without the gates would introduce another expense: that of securing community amenities from use by non-members who would have free access to community streets.


Read more: Incorporation report on security released

    The Westside Board of Directors cast their final vote Tuesday night, October 26, to permanently close Longleaf Drive over Lake Auman Dam. But their vote may not put an end to the matter, just yet.
Image    During the same meeting, the Dam Road Group, organized by Westsider Mike Gorenflo, presented Secretary Karen Milligan with signatures representing 246 lots, petitioning for a special meeting of the membership to vote on the road closure. The Board's Legal Director, Ed Silberhorn, said the Board cannot be forced by a popular vote to change its position.
    Adding more fuel to the public debate on the issue, the Board released a strongly-worded rebuttal, prepared by Dam Engineer Dr. Dan Marks, attacking an informal critique of the Lake Auman Dam remediation prepared by James Weldon, a dam safety engineer employed by the Denver,CO, Water Department. Weldon's analysis, prepared as a favor to Westsider Jim Johnson, has not been released by either Johnson or the Board, but allegedly contains "inflammatory" statements about the quality of the dam remediation and the overall safety of the dam.
Decision unanimous
    All nine members of the Westside Board were present at Tuesday's meeting, and all nine voted in favor of President Ron Shepard's motion to "permanently close" Longleaf Drive over Lake Auman Dam, after first hearing input from a dozen landowners. Much of that input drew applause from the more than one hundred landowners in attendance, who seemed evenly divided amongst partisans on both sides of the debate.
    The Board also heard from Joan Frost the results of a survey on the issue that asked the membership whether they supported the Board's intention to close the road or opposed it "regardless of the potential risk, liability, or cost to myself or the community."
    After weeding out the unsigned or improperly marked forms, Frost said, 869 usable survey forms were collected. Of those, 716 supported the Board's position and 129 opposed it.
    Silberhorn pointed out that this meant eighty-five percent supported the decision to close the road; Gorenflo countered that many landowners who opposed the Board's position refused to return the form in protest of what he called the "biased" wording.


Read more: Board casts final vote to close dam road

    Loose dogs have been a source of frequent complaints in Seven Lakes. In particular, a pair of friendly, but annoying Labrador retrievers that enjoy splashing around Sequoia Point come to mind; however, vicious dog complaints are rare.
Image     On Wednesday, October 27, the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors heard an explicit report of a vicious dog from a resident of Sunset Way in Seven Lakes North. Last week, while out walking, Edith Swigart said, her dog was attacked and mauled in the street by two pit bull terriers.
    “It was horrifying. I have nightmares about it,” she said. “The owner came down and got the dogs and said that he always keeps his dogs under control. I told him, not tonight you didn’t!”
    Swigart’s dog underwent emergency surgery and is home recovering. Besides nightmares, she also has a $900 vet bill to contend with.
    “We may be safe behind the gates, but we’re not on our streets,” she charged.
    Since the incident occurred during weekend hours, the attack was initially reported to the Moore County Sheriff’s Office. Swigart said she was informed by the officer that they do not enforce community rules.
    Security Director Chuck Mims agreed that it is the standard policy of the Sheriff's office not to enforce the rules of private communities, but he added that the Sheriff’s department does enforce state law — on either side of the gates.
    SLLA has rules restricting vicious dogs; so does Moore County.
    According to the county's Animal Control Ordinance 4.4, it is unlawful to keep a vicious, fierce or dangerous domestic animal in Moore County unless the animal is confined in a secure building or enclosure, or is restrained by means of a leash or other like device and firmly under control at all times. A dog is determined to be vicious at the discretion of the Health Director or his designee.
    However, how to deal with a known vicious dog is where county law and community rules diverge.
    Vicious dogs are prohibited in Seven Lakes; but, in Moore County, a dog determined to be vicious can be kept if secured in a six foot high enclosure with an enclosed top and concrete bottom and a secure, lockable gate. Warning signs must be posted on all four sides of the property. In addition, Animal Control must be notified immediately if the vicious animal gets loose or attacks another person or animal.
    Swigart said that Animal Control did file a report and informed her they have another attack by the same dogs already on record.
    The owner of the dog attacked in the earlier incident, who is a resident on Sunset Way and the father of a newborn infant, also spoke during the meeting.
    “I paid good money to live here and I have to deal with these two dogs. If an owner can’t control the dog, then it needs to go,” he exclaimed. “We shouldn’t wait until a kid gets hurt to do something.”
    SLLA President Randy Zielsdorf said he empathized with their concerns, but encouraged residents with critical issues, especially those involving legal ramifications, to bring those discussions before the Board during Work Sessions rather than an Open Meeting.
    “We hear you; but this is just not the forum to resolve this type of issue,” Zieldsdorf said.
    After some discussion, Director Melinda Scott suggested that Community Manager Alina Cochran should meet with Animal Control to discuss appropriate action.


Read more: Northside resident reports pit bull attack

    These are the facts. Seven Lakes West's dam engineer not only recommended that the road over Lake Auman Dam be closed permanently, he took the unusual step of asking the state Dam Safety Engineer to order it closed. The state declined to do so, though it has jurisdiction and authority to order road closure, instead leaving any decision about reopening the road to the community.
Image    If the community chooses to rebuild the roadway across the top of Lake Auman Dam, the level of interest the state takes in that project will depend on how deeply the roadbed and associated drainage structures intrude into the embankment. If the road is reopened to vehicular traffic, and the state, on inspection, finds significant signs of traffic-related stress in the embankment, the state's Dam Safety engineer would likely order the road closed.
Where those facts came from
    The West Side's ongoing discussion about whether the portion of Longleaf Drive that crosses Lake Auman Dam should be reopened or permanently closed has generated substantial debate about exactly what Dam Engineer Dr. Dan Marks recommended, as well as whether the State of North Carolina's Dam Safety Engineer has taken a position on the reopening of the roadway.
    The Times interviewed the state's Dam Safety Engineer, Steven McEvoy, by telephone on Tuesday, October 5 and Monday, October 11 to try to clarify those issues. We also reviewed copies of the official communications from Marks to the state and the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] that touch on this aspect of the debate.
What Dr. Marks said
    Marks went well beyond recommending the permanent closure of the road over Lake Auman Dam, actually asking McEvoy's office to make permanent closure a condition of the state's final approval of the 2009 repair work done on the dam. Marks' request is contained in the final paragraph of his December 1, 2009 Construction Certification Report, an official document aimed at obtaining a Certification for Approval to Impound from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources [NCDENR], the agency responsible for dam safety.
    That paragraph reads as follows:
    Marks Enterprises recommends that the Certification of Approval to Impound for Lake Auman Dam to be issued by the North Carolina Dam Safety Engineer in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources following review of this Construction Certification Report for the recently completed dam remediation construction be granted only with the following stipulation:
    •    That section of Longleaf Drive in the Community of Seven Lakes West that transverses the crest of Lake Auman dam shall remain closed to vehicular traffic of all kinds, except for un-licensed vehicles capable of transporting a maximum of two people. Furthermore, no future consideration shall be given to the opening of this section of roadway (resuming the use of this section of roadway for vehicular traffic) regardless of any plans to design and/or construct any type of high-strength roadway pavement design section. [Emphases in original.]

    For an engineer to ask for such a restriction is unusual and speaks to the depth of Marks' concern about the impact of traffic rolling over the dam.
    SLWLA Director Mick Herdrich, who chairs the Association's dam committee, told The Times that neither he, the Board, nor the Dam Committee knew in advance that Marks planned to ask for this restriction on the state's approval of the repairs. State Dam Engineer McEvoy confirmed that it was out of the ordinary.
    "We don't see that a lot," State Dam Engineer McEvoy said of Marks' recommendation. "That's an unusual request."
    "We responded to that request in the final approval," he added.


Read more: State Engineer Explains Jurisdiction, Decision on Dam Road Closure

    The Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors is seeking Member Input into its pending decision on permanent closure of Longleaf Drive over Lake Auman dam -- a decision on which the Board is expected to vote during its Tuesday, October 26 Work Session.

    Director Mick Herdrich told The Times the Board of Directors had considered sending out its request for input during an Executive Session that concluded their September 28 Work Session. Eight Board members present at a special meeting on Tuesday, October 5 unanimously approved the mailing to the membership, he explained.
Image    Meanwhile, a group of landowners is seeking to call a special meeting of the membership to vote on whether the road should be reopened. [See story here.]
    The Board's mailing, which includes a tear-off form for member input and a postage-paid return envelope, asks Westside landowners to choose one of two options:
     I support the Board's recommendation to close the Dam given the recommendation of its Dam Engineer and the suggestion of the State that we follow that recommendation, or
    I do not support the Board's recommendation and want the road over the dam reopened, regardless of the potential risk, liability, or cost to myself or the community.
    The three page letter [download a copy here] includes background on the history of the dam remediation, presents the rationale for the Dam Committee's recommendation that the road be closed permanently, and includes answers to some frequently asked questions.
    The Board writes that Dam Engineer Dr. Dan Marks "recommended to the state that the road remain closed to vehicular traffic "regardless of any plans to design and/or construct any type of high strength roadway pavement."
    The letter says that a second engineering opinion is not being sought because a legal opinion from the Association's attorney indicates that disregarding Marks' advice -- and the recommendation of the Dam Committee -- could, if the road were reopened and the dam subsequently failed "put the Association in the unenviable position of having to prove in Court that any future problems with the dam were not caused, in whole or in part, by the decision to allow resumption of traffic over the area of the dam where the latent defects in the core were discovered."
    The Board's letter suggests that the impact of the Longleaf Drive road closure on Westside property values is difficult to determine but suggests that an analysis by a "Westside resident" indicates "that home sale prices have been consistent throughout the community, selling for approximately 70% of assessed value during this downturn." The unnamed resident has been identified in previous Board comments as former Infrastructure Director Ray MacKay.
    The Board suggests that the closure of the roadway atop the dam has added at most five and one half minutes to the travel time of Pinehurst-bound westsiders and estimates the cost of repairing the roadway, which was rendered unusable during last year's remediation to be $1.2 million, which could result in a $700 per lot special assessment or "significantly higher annual dues for the foreseeable future."
    Members are being asked to mark their preference on the input form and return it to the SLWLA office no later than Friday, October 22.
    The input form asks that respondents provide their name and lot number. The letter indicates that results will be tabulated by CAS, Inc. and that the responses of individuals will remain confidential, with only the final tally being forwarded to the Board. The letter does not indicate whether that tally will be made public, but Legal Director Ed Silberhorn tol The Times he expected the Board would make the results public.

    A loosely organized group of Westsiders will attempt to gather the 200 or so signatures required to call for a special meeting of the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] for a vote of the membership on whether Longleaf Drive across Lake Auman Dam should be reopened for vehicular traffic.
Image    Meanwhile, the SLWLA Board of Directors yesterday mailed a letter [click here to download a copy] to the Association membership asking for input on the permanent closure of the road, prior to an expected final Board vote on the matter, scheduled for Tuesday, October 26 [see story here] .
    A special meeting vote would be binding; the member input asked for in the Board's letter would be advisory in nature.
Special meeting petition
    Mike Gorenflo presented the two-page Special Meeting petition [download a copy here] to three or four dozen residents gathered Tuesday night, October 5, in the Great Room of the West Side Park Community Center. There was clearly a diversity of opinion in the room; but, by the end of the meeting, more than thirty of those attending had signed the petition, and a dozen others had volunteered to help round up signatures.

    The SLWLA bylaws provide for the calling of a special meeting at the written request of one-tenth of the membership, which would be roughly 172 lots. Gorenflo suggested during the meeting that the group should try to collect at least 250 signatures, because some will likely be ruled invalid for technical reasons. The bylaws provide no special instructions for the conduct of special meetings, which may mean that such a meeting would be conducted in essentially the same way as an annual meeting, with ballots mailed to the membership, which would be eligible to vote by mail, in person, or by proxy.
    The last time SLWLA members successfully called for a special meeting was prior to the construction of the West Side Park Community Center, when those opposed to the project mounted a successful petition drive. But, in that instance, a disagreement between petition organizers and the Board concerning interpretation of the bylaws led to dueling special meetings, one Board sanctioned and the other convened by the opposition.


Read more: Group Seeks to Call Special Meeting on Dam Road Reopening

    In a quick up and down motion on Wednesday, September 29, the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board of Directors took a major step forward in the long awaited road repaving project, awarding Civil Group a $31,124 contract to repair and repave a heavily eroded section of Firetree Lane at Echo Dam.
Image    One of four priority areas identified as needing substantial repairs prior to community-wide repaving work, this section of roadway was particularly worrisome because of its proximity to  Echo Dam.
    Earlier this year, the project was classified as non-jurisdictional by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources and was subsequently put out for bid. Of three requests, only one eligible proposal was returned; however, the price was right, and Civil Group is a highly respected firm.
    “We’ve been after that area for some time," said Director Bud Shaver. "We made a thorough engineering study and had our plan approved by three engineers. We expect this work will resolve the ongoing erosion problem.”
Agreement with SLCC
    Looking for a progress report on activity related to the agreement between the Association and Seven Lakes Country Club [SLCC] over future development of the old driving range, Southsider and former director Donna Stephan asked for an update.
    SLLA President Randy Zielsdorf said the Club had just recently undertaken a significant decision and that he wanted to give them some time to collect their thoughts.
    “There is no new news, but I am following up with them,” said Zielsdorf. “I will come back and report on it next month.”
    Stephan asked Zielsdorf whether he was pursuing all five bulleted points of the agreement, to which he responded that his current priorities were approving the Club's covenants and the ten-foot easement the club is supposed to grant the Association between the old driving range and Seven Lakes Drive.
    “Two of the points, we can’t do anything about until building starts,” he said.  


Read more: SLLA awards contract for paving at Echo Dam

    Westsiders who wanted more time to debate the permanent closure of Longleaf Drive over Lake Auman Dam won a reprieve Tuesday night, when the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors voted to deem the decision a matter of significant interest to the community, postponing a final vote on road closure until October 26.
Image    A concerted effort to pressure the Board to make that decision began a little more than a week earlier, when local attorney and longtime Westsider Mike Gorenflo used email and postings on Facebook to organize a meeting of concerned Westsiders at his Seven Lakes office on Tuesday, September 21.
    The nearly fifty members who turned out decided their first order of business should be to ask the Board to designate the closure a "material matter" allowing additional time for public input. Phil Castaldi was designated the group's spokesman; he, Gorenflo, and Dick Osborne drafted a statement stating the group's request for Castaldi to deliver during the Tuesday, September 28 Board Work Session.
    Word of the group's intentions was communicated through group emails that included Board members among the recipients, as well as articles published on The Seven Lakes Times website and emailed NewsFlashes.
    As a result, a crowd of approximately 150 Westsiders turned out for Tuesday night's Work Session, and the first order of business was a motion from Lake & Dam Director Mick Herdrich that the Board deem the road closure a "matter of significant interest to the community," delaying for a month the Board's final vote on the issue. That motion passed with the support of all eight Board members present (Treasurer Joe Sikes was unable to attending the meeting.)


Read more: Westside Board extends time for dam road debate

    A group of Westsiders wants more time for member input before the Seven Lakes West Landowners Association [SLWLA] Board of Directors finalizes its vote to permanently close Longleaf Drive over Lake Auman dam.
Image    With only a day's notice, a meeting on the dam road closure drew nearly fifty people to the office of attorney Mike Gorenflo, a longtime Westside resident, on Tuesday night, September 21. [The Times did not have a reporter present at the meeting, but interviewed several attendees afterwards.]
    Based on conversation at the meeting, the group agreed to turn out in force at the Tuesday, September 28 SLWLA Board Work Session, in support of a statement, currently being drafted, that will ask the Board to deem the dam road closure a "material matter" and allow an additional sixty days for public comment before taking any final action on closing the road.
    "Material matter" has come to be the standard shorthand for the exercise of a relatively new option in the Westside bylaws (Article V, Section 3)  which allows the Board to "deem the matter to be one of significant interest to the membership," thereby giving the membership "an opportunity to comment thereon at two duly held meetings of the Board prior to the final approval of the matter by the Directors." The standard interpretation of the clause is that designation of a "material matter" triggers a sixty-day public input period.
    The Board voted six-to-two in its Tuesday, September 14 Work Session to permanently close the dam, subject to ratification at the September 28 Work Session. At the time, several Board members spoke in favor of designating the road closure a "material matter."
    Dick Osborne, who, along with Gorenflo and Phil Castaldi, is responsible for drafting the group's statement, told The Times on Thursday: "We don't plan to take up a lot of the Board's time, because it's a work session and they have other things to do. We feel that the Board should forego the vote on closing the dam and look at this as a material matter."
    "We understand that the Board has designated the issue of a new mail house as a material matter," Castaldi said. "If that's a material matter, then this has to be. This is a big deal, as far as I am concerned -- and as far as a lot of people are concerned."
    Osborne told The Times that a significant number of Westsiders are very concerned about the permanent closure of the roadway over the dam, for a variety of reasons, including its impact on property values in the part of the community that lies to the west of the dam and has been, as a result of the closure, effectively cut off from the back gate.
    "There are more houses up for sale in that area than any other part of the community," Osborne said. "Property values have been hurt. When we bought our property, it was an enticement to be able to have a loop around the lake. That helped the realtors sell us on moving here."
    He said the group is concerned that the Board would make a decision with such profound impact "without our voice even being heard . . . We're going to be asking the Board to give us the 60 days and listen to us during that period of time."
    Castaldi told The Times that he expected the extra sixty days would be used to collect additional data that might result in a decision to close the dam road or might involve investigating -- and putting a price on -- other options.
    "I don't think we have seen enough engineering data to be convinced that the road must be closed permanently," he told The Times.
    "We believe the Board is very, very sincere about what they do," Castaldi added. "But we are concerned that they aren't listening to the heartbeat of the community, so we are trying to get them to do a right turn and not vote on that Tuesday night."
    "So many who turned out at Tuesday's meeting feel disenfranchised," Gorenflo told The Times. "They feel like the Board is taking action on big issues and doesn't seem to care what the opinion of the landowners is."
    Noting that he had copied Board members on all his communications before and after the gathering at his office, Gorenflo said, "We haven't tried to organize this in a clandestine manner. It's not 'us' against 'them.' This is about us trying to convince them to let us mean more."
    Gorenflo added that he has no way of knowing whether a majority of the membership supports closing the road or reopening it -- and neither, he suspects, does the Board.
    "There are certain decisions that should require a careful testing of the will of the membership," Gorenflo added. "Just because it's not required that the Board take the extra step, doesn't mean it's not appropriate. The Board members should want to gather all the input they can before a substantial decision like this one."


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...