While the economy has had mixed effects on most of Loudon County's golf communities, Rarity Pointe faces some unique challenges going forward.
The golf club, which is part of Rarity Communities, has recently been at the center of litigation between former partners Mike Ross and Robert Stooksbury. The lawsuit, filed in 2009, claimed, in part, that Ross and numerous defendants had diverted funds that were to be allocated to Rarity Pointe for their personal use. Ross and the defendants denied the allegations.
Earlier this year, a jury found that Stooksbury was owed $11 million in damages, and during a later hearing in early March, the jury added $15 million in punitive damages against Ross and the defendants.
The lawsuit alleged that the funds in question should have been used for amenities at Rarity Pointe. A witness for Stooksbury, real estate consultant Cord Middleton, testified that if the amenities were built as they were advertised, the golf club could have raised $18 million in revenue from sold lots.
Most recently, Ross filed a motion seeking a new trial.
The club, which has about 30 members, is currently a "semiprivate" community, according to golf professional Rich Spraker. He said the economy necessitated that the golf club, which opened in 2007, become a semiprivate facility.
"This was originally built to be a high-end private (course), but it was built right when real estate collapsed so there was just not enough" demand, he said.
Spraker, interviewed from the club's temporary clubhouse, said work on a new building has yet to materialize.
"We hope to add a clubhouse and a wellness center," Spraker said. "This is just a temporary facility here."
He said he hoped the club could begin construction on a new clubhouse in the next six to eight months. "We've had several plans, but it keeps changing with the financing."
Current amenities in place at Rarity include a marina and the golf course.
"There's some proposed plans for further amenities, but, again, they're all subject to the bankruptcy," real estate manager Luke Noe said.
From a golfing perspective, Spraker said the club's involvement in litigation has not impacted play. About 18,000 rounds were recorded in 2011, and course officials hope to break 20,000 this year.
"The golf, it hasn't (been) affected," Spraker said. "We had our best year ever last year. Hopefully, we'll just keep increasing. We're working hard on customer service, getting our rates right, the condition of the golf course."
He said the course's topography and scenery were some of the main elements that drew players. "Just a lot of rolling hills, a lot of elevation changes, lake views," Spraker said. "(It's) just a pretty piece of property."
Peyton Sliger of Maryville, who has been playing at Rarity for two or three years, said it is his favorite local course.
"It's really challenging," he said. "The greens are tough, but I like playing it. It's really nice. They took good care of it. It's in good condition."
He said the greens and the hilly terrain make the course a challenge. He first heard about the golf club on sports talk radio.
"They mentioned it, and I just thought I would come out here and try it and have loved it ever since," Sliger said.
Noe said that some potential property owners were taking a wait-and-see approach in light of the club's recent legal entanglement.
"I think at Rarity Pointe, a lot of people are kind of sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what's going to happen with the current conditions," Noe said.
He said that others had expressed interest in taking advantage of some opportunities that don't come around often. Currently, Rarity has 35 lots for sale that vary in size from about one-third of an acre to one acre. Nine of those are either under bank foreclosure or are distressed sites. Home site prices begin at $39,900.
"People want to know what's going to happen," Noe said. "But, in addition, we've seen a large pick up and interest from people wanting to buy a bank foreclosure home site and distressed home sites because they feel like this is the lowest it'll ever be, and this is the best opportunity these folks will ever see to buy property on the water or one or two rows off the water in a prestigious community such as Rarity Pointe."
He said he typically stressed the good values on home sites that are currently available in the community.
"For someone looking for a great opportunity at a super value, these are the lowest we've ever seen prices on Lake Tellico, especially for a gated, golf course-type community," Noe said. "The community, regardless of what happens to the development, I think it's still going to be one of the better developments on Lake Tellico."
"I think it's an unbelievable opportunity for somebody that wants to live on the lake or in a community of this nature for these values," he added. "I don't think we'll ever see this again in a community of the caliber of Rarity Pointe."