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Trump discussions to buy Mooresville golf club lead to rift among members

Eric Trump oversees golf course purchases for the Trump organization. Photo by The Associated Press

The big Donald Trump real estate deal involving The Point Lake and Golf Club has been brewing for more than a year.

And now that Crescent Communities is scheduled to turn over ownership and management of the upscale, lakefront Mooresville club and golf course to its members by the end of the year, it seems likely that the Trump deal will become a reality.

No one from the Trump organization or Crescent Communities could be reached for comment.

But the Trump deal has created a rift among The Point’s members, some of whom feel they should retain ownership of the club.

“I don’t want Trump to buy it,” said Leanna Rutkaukas, who has lived at The Point since 2006. “I’m scared he will hike up the fees, and it already costs a lot to live here.”

After Crescent Communities turns over ownership of The Point on Jan. 1, members have until April 30 to pay Crescent’s $3 million asking price, according to Bill Fitzharris, who has lived at The Point since 2008. If members miss the deadline, the price jumps to $5 million.

But Fitzharris said The Point generates between $800,000 and $1 million in revenue every year, so securing a loan for the $3 million would not be a problem.

Crescent Communities is a division of Charlotte-based Crescent Resources.

Once members finalize the deal with Crescent, they are expected to turn around and sell the club to Trump, although Fitzharris said The Point’s nine-member advisory board of governors has not revealed the purchase price. Calls placed to about six advisory board members were not returned. The Point has about 1,000 members, and about 700 people live in the community, Fitzharris said.

The Trump deal has been in the works for more than a year. In July 2010, Trump’s son, Eric, and other employees of the Trump Organization met with a member’s advisory group at The Point to discuss the deal. About a month after the meeting, Eric Trump, who oversees golf course purchases for the Trump organization, told The Mecklenburg Times that they were “looking at it (The Point) seriously” and were going to continue to weigh their options. And late this past summer, he reiterated to The Meck Times that his company was still interested in buying The Point.

Eric Trump, who usually has been responsive to Meck Times calls and emails, has not returned any messages from the newspaper this week.

As the deadline for Crescent to turn over management to the members gets closer, residents of The Point say they are concerned about what impact a Trump ownership could have on the club and if it would result in higher dues.

Rutkaukas, for one, is worried that if Trump buys The Point, it will change the club’s atmosphere.

“A lot of people moved here because the club is supposed to be laid-back and easygoing,” she said. “We don’t it to become some fancy, snotty place.”

Sandy Francis and his wife Sherry have been members at The Point since 1999 and residents since 2006. He said that for two years a membership committee investigated the pros and cons of selling the club to Trump and other entities, including Club Corp. The committee visited five or six Trump golf course communities and ultimately recommended selling the club to Trump, he said.

“The big buzz around here about a month ago is how Trump’s purchase could boost property values, especially if he upgraded the golf course and other facilities,” he said. “From a real estate standpoint that could be a real boon.”

But then again, he said, some residents are concerned Trump might bring an assessment to all homeowners and increase dues.

Residents at The Point must have, at minimum, a “social” membership in the club. That costs $170 per month. There’s also a monthly $25 dining fee — in lieu of tipping — and residents have to spend at least $150 per quarter at the club’s restaurant.

There are three other club levels, which provide members access to the swimming pool, tennis courts and golf course. Fees for the levels range from $255 to $515 per month.

“Our monthly bill is never under $300 a month,” Rutkaukas said. “That’s a flipping car payment.”

At this point, homeowners don’t yet have enough information about the Trump deal to make an informed opinion, Francis said. “There are going to be some town hall meetings to discuss options, and Trump officials have indicated they will be there to lay it all out.”

Like Rutkaukas, Jerry Doyle, who has lived at The Point since 2006, also has reservations about Trump buying the club.

“Unless it’s very financially attractive and just a no-brainer, I’m not in favor of it,” he said. “I think the members need to own and run it for a period of time to understand the value of what we have.

“Later on, if somebody is still interested, we can entertain those options. But with all things being equal, I think we’d be better off with the members retaining control. This is not only our club. This is our community.”

Doyle said members don’t have enough information about any pending deal with Trump to weigh all the pros and cons. Before a Trump purchase could be finalized, members would have to vote during a homeowners meeting sometime this month.

The more a homeowner pays in membership dues, the more weight their vote carries. For instance, a single vote from a homeowner who has a full golf equity membership actually counts as four votes, while a social membership vote only counts as a single vote.

Doyle said The Point’s advisory board of governors continues to meet to come up with plan for when they take over the club from Crescent.

“They have to plan for the contingency that the club might be sold to Trump but also plan what they’re going to do if we end up running it,” he said.

One resident at The Point who didn’t want to reveal her name said she believes the advisory board has already decided to sell the club to Trump. The board hasn’t included members in their decision-making process, she said.

“We’ve been kept in the dark,” she said. “And the board is biased towards selling to Trump. I’m not for or against Trump. I just don’t like the process of how we got here.”

Boykin can be reached at sam.boykin@mecktimes.com.

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