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SUNSET BEACH — Property owners say they are still concerned about stalled development and infrastructure work at Jaguar’s Lair. A small group of them, several from out of town, gathered Nov. 2 on a vacant lot at the unfinished development on the former Angels Trace Golf Course where infrastructure work has been stop-and-start since the recession.
The “bring your own chair” gathering was described as the first “outing” of Ocean Ridge Master Association members from Jaguar’s Lair to give those in attendance a chance to express concerns about the unfinished development off Old Georgetown Road.
John and Mary Sawyer said they drove down from Chapel Hill to meet with event organizers Cas Kacala and Monte Simpson and a few other property owners.
Town officials were also invited. Mayor Richard Cerrato and town council candidate Terry Johnson, who has since been elected to council in the Nov. 5 municipal election, were among those in attendance.
Jaguar’s Lair property owner Tom Flaherty of Sea Trail said he frequently visits the unfinished community where the old Angels Trace Golf Course used to be.
“I live so close that if I could hit a golf ball, well, I would be able to hit home,” said Flaherty, who owns lot No. 24 on unfinished Haddington Place. “I come over here all the time to see what isn’t happening.”
Flaherty cited a recent update at a Sunset Beach Town Council meeting that things had not gone well during a town negotiations meeting with Jaguar’s Lair developer Mark Saunders and he had stopped infrastructure work in the community’s section 1.
“There’s been no work for a month,” Flaherty said, pointing out a pile of concrete.
Saunders, he said, collected money from property owners but didn’t deliver. Flaherty also questioned why and how there has been no legal authority to intervene.
While Saunders and his legal team have cited the recession, Flaherty said, “The fact of the matter (is) … the recession was the best time in the last decade to do infrastructure implementation.”
He also took issue with the bond Sunset Beach holds on infrastructure work.
“That’s a monetary element that was meant to protect purchasers,” he said.
At 80, Flaherty said he now doesn’t expect to his property there developed in his lifetime. He said the site where they had gathered is still pretty with trees and rolling hills where golfers used to play.
Signs mark vacant lots purchased by families — Simpson, Bell, and the Schuster family of Alexandria, Va., are among names on them.
Fellow property owner John Sawyer, 85, who drove down from Chapel Hill with his 81-year-old wife, Mary, said it was amazing the way the development was advertised as one of Ocean Ridge’s “Five Cats” golf courses, and it was supposed to have the best clubhouse.
“(Saunders) just assured everybody he was going to complete it when promised,” he said. “‘Don’t worry, it’s all right.’
“The whole place doesn’t look as bad as it did mid-summer,” Sawyer added as they stood on the site.
Property owners Jo and Steve Burgwyn drove down from Jackson. Steve said he would consider participating in Saunders’ Coastal Companies’ swap program that has been offered to some property owners. He said their own lot has “deteriorated so much it’s unreal.
“In a word, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “The whole thing has been a mental and psychological process trying to be at ease with it. I think it’s totally unfair, without a doubt.”
Simpson said some swaps have been offered as a means of downsizing the community and reducing the amount of roadwork.
“We all bought in here on a plan and an idea,” he said.
Simpson said his proposal to swap his land and buy for an extra amount of cash into Barrington Place, another Saunders’ development under way at Ocean Ridge, was rejected.
“These lots are worthless right now,” he said. “You can’t build anything at all.”
At the last Sunset Beach Town Council meeting Nov. 4, town councilman Lou De Vita noted the county has responded it isn’t interested in the town’s request that the county take over handling Jaguar’s Lair.
Jaguar’s Lair, he said, is still the town’s matter to be handled.
Fellow council member Karen Joseph, who is on the negotiating team, said information between the town’s and Jaguar’s Lair attorneys has been shared with the bargaining team.
“I want to remind everyone that the bargaining team and the council have a responsibility to the property owners that we take very seriously,” she said. “We are functioning under a series of legal agreements that have deadlines, and we as council cannot take actions prior to deadlines.
“In the end we have a responsibility to do what is best for the citizens of this community and the town as a whole. We are committed to meeting with Coastal Companies to reach a fair settlement.”
Laura Lewis is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or email@example.com.