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Seven Falls lots go on auction block for unpaid taxes

One of the few improvements made at the Seven Falls Golf & River Club was a covered bridge. One of the few improvements made at the Seven Falls Golf & River Club was a covered bridge.

One of the last vestiges tying imprisoned developer Keith Vinson to the failed Seven Falls development are the 34 lots his development company owned.

That tie will be severed when the property goes on the auction block Wednesday in a property tax foreclosure sale on the courthouse steps.

The lots are generally under an acre except for an 18-acre tract of land that sold for $1 million in 2007 and is now valued at $137,000. A one-acre lot that sold for $250,000 in 2007 is now valued at $10,700. Most of the lots are valued on a base rate of $10,000 per acre, far below the prices that Vinson got for lots when he was developing Seven Falls Golf and River Club in the Pleasant Grove community near Etowah.
Convicted as the ringleader of a massive fraud that cost banks and investors $23 million, Vinson is serving an 18-year sentence in federal prison. His release date is June 21, 2029, when he would be 70 years old.
The properties owned by Vinson’s Seven Falls LLC owe delinquent taxes ranging from $773 to $13,640.
“What we’re going to do is open the bidding at the amount owed in back taxes plus interest and penalties plus the cost of getting to the sale so that if anybody else bids $1 over that, the county will recoup anything that it’s out,” County Attorney Russ Burrell said. If no one bids on the parcels above the amount that covers taxes plus interest, the county becomes the property owner. What would it do with Seven Falls lots?
“I can’t answer that,” Burrell said. “I don’t know. I can’t see the county being in the business of wanting to invest in and be a developer of residential real estate.” Besides, he said, state law would not allow it.
Some lots are contiguous and others are not.
“They’re going to be spread out but there’s going to be groups of them together,” Burrell said. “Lots in there sold for a third of million dollars. If you go into the top and it’s views you’re looking for, there are views of Mount Mitchell to your right and Mount Pisgah to hour left and everything in between.”
County records show 179 lots in the subdivision, not counting the 34 owned by Seven Falls LLC. By far the largest owner of lots is developer Scott McElrath, whose McElrath Carolina LLC bought 74 lots from a South Carolina bank. French Broad River Partners LLC owns 19 lots.
The tax foreclosure sale was scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, at the Grove Street Courthouse.