After years of false starts, a plan to build a sprawling residential community around a Carthage golf resort is finally coming to fruition.
David Chapman, a California developer, has been in talks to buy Little River Resort from the Texas private equity firm that currently owns the 640-acre property. He submitted a preliminary application in November to build a subdivision on the land, which is located off U.S. 15-501.
Tom Robinson, town manager for Carthage, said the proposed development would eventually feature more than 1,200 homes.
“The buildout is going to generate about 2,500 people, and that’s going to be the same size as the existing population of Carthage,” he said. “This thing is probably one of the biggest projects to come across Moore County, period.”
Robinson met Wednesday with Chapman’s attorney to discuss a potential timeline for the project, which is expected to be rolled out in five phases over a span of 10 years. The first phase would include construction of 280 houses, with at least 130 going on lots that already have plats from an earlier effort to develop the land.
A preliminary schematic created by Koontz-Jones Design of Southern Pines shows a mix of townhomes, multi-family dwellings and single-family residences, along with a proposed hotel and short course near the northwest boundary of the property.
Robinson said studies are being conducted to determine how the project might affect traffic and local wildlife. The town, he said, will need to expand its sewer infrastructure along U.S. 15-501 to accommodate the anticipated influx of residents.
Much of the sewer work is expected to be covered with $6.8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. An undetermined amount of that will be awarded to the town as grant funding. The rest will be a loan, which Robinson said could be repaid using system development fees collected from the builder.
In addition to the sewer expansion, Carthage will need a $1.7 million water tank to increase its current service capacity. The developer, Robinson said, must agree to pay at least $1 million to “offset the cost of putting that tank in.”
Chapman is also being asked to set aside money to pay for any services rendered by the town’s attorneys, planners and engineers.
“We’re incurring quite a bit of cost on this, and that shouldn’t really come out of the town’s coffers,” Robinson said, adding that the requested money would be placed in a fund that can be accessed as needed by the town. “Anything at the end of the day that we don’t spend will go back to the developer.”
The developer appears amenable to the request, according to Robinson. Writing in an email on Thursday, Chapman said he is “not yet in a position to go on record about anything as it relates to Little River as we are still attempting to finalize the acquisition of the property.”
Little River Resort was once home to an equestrian training facility with polo grounds and a harness racing track. Carthage bought the land and hired acclaimed golf course architect Dan Maples, who was born near the resort’s namesake river, to design the 18-hole course that would become the property’s centerpiece.
After buying the resort from the town, a private developer built several condominiums along the fairways. The developer later sold the resort to a company called Little River Partners, which announced an ambitious plan to flesh out the property with residential neighborhoods and a shopping center.
The project never moved forward, and Little River Partners sold the resort in 2007 to Oceanico Group, a company whose portfolio at the time consisted primarily of golf courses in Portugal.Records from the Moore County Register of Deeds show that the National Asset Management Agency of Ireland assumed ownership of the property in 2015 after taking over loans that Anglo Irish Bank had made to Oceanico Group, which floundered during the global recession.
ECapital Loan Fund, a private equity firm based in Fort Worth, Texas, bought the resort for $6.5 million during a public auction in April at the Moore County Courthouse. The deal included the golf course, which has been closed since a pump station failed in 2018, causing an estimated $1 million in damage to the greens.
Robinson said Chapman hopes to change the Maples-designed course to “a par-three course, similar to what The Cradle (of Pinehurst) is.”
But before that can happen, Chapman must submit a revised preliminary application stating he has permission to work on the property, which is still deeded to ECapital Loan Fund. An application for a conditional-use permit must also be presented to the Carthage Board of Commissioners for approval.
“Hopefully we can fast-track this and have the planning board and the town council meet together to review (the plan) so they can start working on the first phase by April,” Robinson said. “That’s aggressive, but that’s sort of the timeline we’re talking about.”
According to Robinson, the developer already has “equity partners lined up” and is working with “one of the largest homebuilders in North America.” Robinson said he was not at liberty to share the name of the builder.
“This project has been in the works for 10 to 15 years,” he said. “And it finally looks like it’s actually going to happen.”