Little River Golf Resort in Carthage has always been a diamond in the rough, more promise than fulfillment.

From its equestrian roots to its acclaimed golf course architect to its unique topography and out-of-the-way accommodations, Little River has always been the place saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

And yet, we’ve seen little over the years from it, aside from a golf course, a modest meeting destination and decent restaurant. Its overall

potential has always remained just that. And when the course itself shut down a couple of years ago and the whole property went over to bankruptcy auction, it seemed like yet another detour into the rough.

Now comes David Chapman, a California developer, with an eye for what perhaps Little River could yet become. A tentative proposal on the table — he has yet to actually buy the land — would repurpose Little River as a largely residential development with 1,200 homes, a par-3 golf course and some other mixed uses.

If fully realized, Chapman’s plan would double the size of Carthage and forever change the complexion of central Moore County.

History of Hype

But lest we all get overheated, let’s douse ourselves in some cold water. We’ve heard all this before about Little River. Fanciful ideas about grand development out there have besotted us for years. Homes! Shopping! Hotels! World-class golf! Yup, we’ve been promised a great many things with Little River.

To be fair, it’s not just Little River. Moore County has a long history of developers coming through promising the “biggest” and “greatest” project we’ve ever seen. If such plans had come to fruition, we’d have a Home Depot in Southern Pines and a Pinehurst restaurant themed for chef Emeril Lagasse by now. Seen those lately?

Chapman’s idea is a bit more grounded in reality. It includes pairing up with an undisclosed national home builder who would cater to the market for young military families.

Granted, there are young military-connected families moving into the area, but enough to sustain this project, plus the 1,000-plus homes developers in Aberdeen want to build? Or all the infill construction going on in Pinehurst and Southern Pines geared toward these buyers? Are they relocating the Pentagon here and didn’t tell us?

But builders say there is a pent-up demand for new homes that is not getting met, both here and nationally, so perhaps this Little River project has that going for it.

Hurdles to Clear

Much still has to happen for this latest Little River project to happen. Major infrastructure questions face Carthage, not the least of which is whether there is sufficient school, road, water and sewer capacities to accommodate this development. For instance, Carthage Elementary will be either at or over its capacity in the next 10 years, and that’s without this project. If these are going to be military-connected families, they’ll be sending their kids to school.

As for water and sewer, Carthage has long suffered from poor quality and capacity of both. Just in the last couple of months, Town Manager Tom Robinson had to issue a public letter answering concerns about the water’s color and taste.

“Our tests show our water quality is well within normal state standards. This statement is not to downplay complaints,” the letter said.

Carthage is in line for $6.8 million from the federal government to upgrade and expand sewer capacity. And the town is trying to get the developer to pay at least $1 million for a new $1.7 million water tank. And so far, there’s no mention of any upgrades to U.S. 15-501 or N.C. 22, which would be main entrance and exit points.

So while we’re pleased that Carthage is getting some long needed attention for growth, we reserve judgment on whether it’s quality growth until we see more details.

(2) comments

Kent Misegades

This will never work without the jobs to sustain the houses. There are no new real private sector jobs in our area. Retail and government checks will not sustain a strong economy - only industry and farming create wealth. Military families like charter schools - see the Academy of Moore. That implies a far lower cost for a new school to handle this neighborhood if it attracted military families. Regardless - where are the private sector jobs to support such a neighborhood?

Lee Mc Graw

Anyone who can afford a home in the proposed development already has the income. Not a single home would be sold to one without means. I see your point but for Little River project, I respectfully disagree.

If it were anywhere a little south there would be no question...perhaps wealth is edging north? Good.

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