Chris Dwiggins, golf superintendent at Woodlake, on the 8th hole of the community’s Ellis Maples-designed course.

Chris Dwiggins, golf superintendent at Woodlake, on the 8th hole of the community’s Ellis Maples-designed course.

With two major projects currently underway at Woodlake Country Club in eastern Moore County, residents are feeling optimistic about the embattled subdivision’s future.

The gated community’s Ellis Maples-designed golf course is being restored to its former luster following years of neglect. Land surveyors and engineers have begun the process of rebuilding the dam that once held back water in the community’s 1,200-acre lake, which has been empty since 2016.

“I’ve been able to see a lot of progress,” said Tony Cianchetta, whose home overlooks the 13th fairway of the golf course. “It’s a very positive thing to see crews out there working every day.”

Atlantic National Capital, the company that owns Woodlake, tabbed Kris Spence, a golf architect based in Oak Ridge, to oversee the course’s renovation. Work on the project began in earnest last September.

First opened in 1971, the 18-hole course fell into disrepair under the German company that previously owned Woodlake. The community is now run by Atlantic National Capital, a family-owned investment group led by Fayetteville businessman Keith Allison and his daughters.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Allison said the course could be ready to reopen by fall.

“We don't have a definite date yet,” he said. “It depends on the greens and the grass and the weather. But it should be sometime in the fall, unless the grass has not taken as we'd like it to.”

Chris Dwiggins, golf superintendent at Woodlake, on the 8th hole of the community’s Ellis Maples-designed course.

Further on the horizon is the dam repair. The budget adopted by the state in November allocated $9.6 million for the project, but inflation has since driven up the cost.

“We have had some price increases on the dam and we're working with the state on trying to increase the grant size to cover the increase in construction costs,” Allison said.

Concerns about flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew led state officials to drain the community’s centerpiece lake in 2016. The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality later ordered Woodlake CC Corp., the German company that owned the subdivision at the time, to breach the dam to prevent water from pooling in the lake.

When the company failed to comply with the order, DEQ decided to breach the dam on its own. But the department’s intervention had unintended consequences.

The breach is blamed for widespread flooding that occurred in areas downstream of Woodlake after Hurricane Florence in 2018. Spring Lake and parts of Fort Bragg were affected.

After Atlantic National Capital bought Woodlake at auction for $3.5 million in 2021, Allison began working with county officials and state lawmakers to secure funding for the dam’s repair.

The project was originally included in House Bill 500, or the N.C. Disaster Relief and Flood Mitigation Act of 2021, but legislators were apprehensive about the bill’s $200 million price tag. They eventually decided to recast Woodlake as a standalone item in the budget.

Chris Dwiggins, golf superintendent at Woodlake, on the 8th hole of the community’s Ellis Maples-designed course

In a recent post on Woodlake’s website, Atlantic National Capital wrote that crews have begun “boring and drilling for the initial steps required to obtain a full set of design and engineered plans to reconstruct the dam.” The company also wrote that drones would be deployed in the coming weeks to conduct a topographical survey of the lake’s shoreline.

But it will be some time before water returns to the lake. Atlantic National Capital estimates the dam’s construction could “potentially take anywhere from 24 to 30 months.”

“The lake is kind of the center of gravity, really,” said Jon Laurich, a resident of Woodlake. “You bring the lake back and I’m optimistic that everything else will come along with it. You’ll have water to irrigate the golf course. You’ll have boating, fishing, swimming — all the things people in the community used to do.”

Allison said the population of Woodlake, which is currently home to about 2,000 people, is expected to grow in the months ahead. Ascot Corp., a homebuilder based in Whispering Pines, recently acquired 20 undeveloped lots in the subdivision.

“There's a lot of activity going on,” Allison said. “There’s activity on the golf course, activity on developing houses and the renovation of existing buildings. There’s also activity with the dam, with permitting, surveying, soil sampling and testing. We've come a long way, and we’ve got all the boxes checked for a good future.”

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(7) comments

Tommy Davis

Barbara Misiaszek are you saying the county reassessed property values at Woodlake after the dam collapse? I realize location ... location ... location has everything to do with property values. Did the residents of Woodlake petition the county to reevaluate the property values? I was under the impression reassessment happens only every 7 years. Ergo, Woodlake property values should have remained the same with or with out a lake or golf course. I recall when Woodlake was a swamp until it became Lake Surf a mediocre community when A.B. Hardee first developed it. It still floods and is pretty much a swamp to this day.

Tommy Davis

Barbara Misiaszek please explain how Woodlake had tax revenue suspended because of the lake's dam collapse? Are you implying that the county suspended taxes or reduced taxes since the collapse?

Barbara Misiaszek

Assessed values of homes fell dramatically. Why? Because there was neither a lake nor golf course. Is land on a lake or golf course valued higher than land adjacent to an open field, or perhaps a swamp? You better believe it is. Also, the market for homes fell dramatically because nobody wanted to live out here. The law of supply and demand actually exists, Tommy. If supply (people willing, or wanting, to sell) is greater than those who want to buy, then asking prices, and sales prices, fall so that sales will take place.

John Misiaszek

Tommy Davis

Ironically HB 500 provides insight into the jest of the legislation: "FISCAL IMPACT SUMMARY

Section 11 of the bill reduces tax revenue by reenacting expired corporate and individual income

tax credits for donating real property effective starting with the 2021 tax year. The bill makes

modifications to the original use requirements for donated property. Under the bill, qualifying

donations are eligible for tax credits if the property is useful:

 For farmland preservation

 As a buffer to limit land use activities that would restrict, impede, or interfere with military

training, testing or operations of a military installation or training area or otherwise be

incompatible with the mission of the installation

 For fish and wildlife conservation

 For floodplain protection

So companies like Ascot will benefit immensely from the windfall to resorting the lake. The state provided the money and companies reap the benefits while taxpayer pay the bills. How good of a deal is that?

Tommy Davis

" The budget adopted by the state in November allocated $9.6 million for the project, but inflation has since driven up the cost." Am I missing something here, or am I being just a prude? This is a "gated community" no accessible to taxpayers so why are taxpayers having to foot the bill to restore a dam that benefits only residents of Woodlake? Can taxpayers go swimming, boating or enjoy the benefits of a restored lake? I don't think so ... Perhaps it's a political ploy for votes!

Barbara Misiaszek

Moore County will financially benefit directly from this project . Once the lake is restored it can be assumed property values within Woodlake will regain lost values and the County will once again be able to collect the $500,000 in property tax revenue currently being lost annually.

John Misiaszek

Barbara Misiaszek

In addition to the tax benefit that will accrue to Moore County you will also limit flooding downstream. What's downstream? Rt. 690 for starters. A main thoroughfare into Ft. Bragg. Should Rt. 69 close due to flooding travel times to Bragg are greatly increased. Also, the risk of flooding on Bragg and in Sprig Lake is also greatly reduced when there is a dam at Woodlake. i.E. a piece of flood control infrastructure.

John Misiaszek

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