New Lake Development... Input Wanted

Until now I've just been a lurker here. I appreciate the wealth of knowledge on these topics. Thanks in advance.

I'm a residential real estate developer who happens to be an avid watersports fan. I've been to a couple private man-made ski lakes and always loved the concept. I've though about doing my own for some time, but as a developer, my approach would be different than most that I've seen. Specifically, in my region, private lakes are highly exclusive. Just enough residential lots to share the construction burden. This typically means about 10-24 lots in a 2-lake setup.

I want to take a different approach. The concept is a private HOA but will not be an exclusive gated community. There will be a higher number of residences and lot prices will be reasonable. I've attached a preliminary plat with some dimensions and callouts, but here are some answers to FAQs.
  • The main entrance is on the north end where there is an arterial road in the community, but all other road outlets tie into surrounding community feeder streets. This will not be a gated community.
  • These lakes ARE NOT ever meant to host tournaments. There will not be jumping or ramps. Both lakes must accommodate wakeboarding/wakesurfing in order to make lots appealing to the local family culture. We do not intend to have islands in order to provide the greatest versatility.
  • Strongest prevailing winds are north, making both north-south and east-west configurations less ideal. Best to angle them as shown.
  • Total parcels are 92 acres. Land is nearly perfectly flat in all directions (currently ag land) with less than 18" of drop end-to-end.
  • Soil surveys indicate heavy sticky clay formations. We don't anticipate seepage issues or any rock formations, but the water table is high so we do anticipate having to dewater during construction.
  • The local university collects evaporation data. Apr 1 - Oct 31 we typically have 41" of evaporation with the peak in July at about 0.3" per day. This is pan data, so shielded large body evap should be lower.
  • The land comes with water shares and water rights. There may be a small spring, but given the size of the project and the criticality of the water level, we will be drilling an agricultural capacity well. Worst case scenario, water is very cheap here and we can fill the entire lakes from dry with a fire hydrant for about $35K. Given rainfall, we could maintain water levels from a municipal source by raising the HOA fee about $5/month.
  • Intended lake depth is 10-11' within 40' distance from center line in both directions, after which it will begin to shallow at an average 5:1 slope for another 40'. The last 2' of depth will be close to 16:1 slope. There will be another 10ft of beach sand beyond shoreline.
  • There are two large public docks as noted on the plat. Each will have a public boathouse with furniture, outdoor kitchen, TV, and upper viewing deck. Additionally, behind each dock is bathroom and locker facilities.
  • Community docks will each include heated swimming pool (25'x50'), one hot tub, and one warm tub. The docks and pools are located on opposing ends to prevent excess travel from residents at far end.
  • We do not intend to have private docks on the lake that protrude inside shorline, but waterfront owners will be allowed to obtain permission to cut a small dock/boathouse into their backyard at their own expense, provided the appropriate procedure is followed to dam off and seal the cut during construction to prevent seepage.
  • Private competition series boats will be allowed, if pre-approved. HOA will purchase and maintain 2 competition series community boats no older than 3 years. Fuel dock near ramp at east end of north lake.
  • Lake use will rotate days of week; e.g. power days mon, wed, fri, sat, sun. Non-power days tues and thurs but power use allowed if lakes are not in use for non-power recreation. Power use rotation is 10 minute turns.
Waterfront lots do not have to be built on, but must be fully professionally landscaped and maintained within 12 months of purchase. There are currently a total of 57 waterfront lots ranging in size from 0.25 acres to 0.5 acres. Lot size configurations are randomized to allow combination for larger builds. There are also 55 non-waterfront lots averaging 1/3 acre in size. These will be subject to HOA and have access to lake use.

As depicted, there are also 7 multi-family structures, intended to be Class-A waterfront condos. These are designed such that all units are water facing and within 30ft of shoreline. The structures will be 3-story flats. The one near the north entrance will likely be elevator access and restricted to 55+. The others will likely be walk-up. There will be 210 multifamily units. There are also 6 live/work units along the frontage road for those who want their work space attached to their living space.

Additionally, all owners will have access to community facilities including clubhouse, full size gym (Planet Fitness), event center, sauna, massage rooms, office workspace, etc.

I welcome all questions and advice. We do realize the number of residents places a fairly high burden on lake use. Keep in mind, this is meant to be an accessible residential resort community centrally located in a small metro area of about $200K people, and within 1 hour of a larger metro of 1.75MM people. It is not a remote competition training ground or exclusive escape. For reference, equivalent sized waterfront lots on private lakes in this region sell for $300-$450K. We will be targeting $170-$270K, depending on lot size and would like to keep the HOA fees as far below $100/month as possible.



  • LakeOneSkierLakeOneSkier Posts: 303 Solid Baller
    edited January 2019
    I've lived in a private gated four lake community (avg of 12 homes per lake) and have also lived in a two-lake community which was very much like what you have outlined: higher density of lots at 'reasonable' prices, a limit of 15 'lake/boat use permits' per lake, but everyone could 'access' the lake, located in a very small town but within 40 minutes of a city with 2.7 million people, etc.

    The four-lake community I miss every day… 48 other lot owners who had the same passion as I did, appreciated the lakes for what they are, worked to keep them in great shape, and (mostly) respected each other.

    The two-lake community, even though we built a beautiful home that my wife still says was her favorite, I could not leave fast enough. Sold after living there 2.5 years. At that price point, at that density, there was not the appreciation of a private ski lake with a slalom course. Other than a few of us it was full of weekend warriors who felt it was there right to do as they pleased, partied as much as they'd like at all hours of the night (city had no noise ordinance, so the police were no help). When I skied it usually involved 30-60 minutes of fixing the course beforehand. Make a pass down the lake and come back for another only to have kayakers paddling down the center of the course. Or another boat coming straight at you because they felt your 10 minutes were up. I could go on and on.

    I commend you for what you are undertaking, and I hope you are successful, but unless you are in an area that can support that many homeowners who understand private lake/slalom skiing living you really need to nail down your CCR’s and Lake Use rules and enforce them.
    Baller Index: -31.67
  • ToddFToddF Posts: 604 Solid Baller
    where is said development?
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    edited January 2019

    I see exactly what you are saying. I really appreciate your honesty.

    To address a couple of your concerns... I should point out that much to the chagrin of most people here, we likely will not have a permanent slalom course. The issue is that there really aren't enough comp level skiers. Within my group of friends I would estimate 1 out of 30 slaloms at a level that would benefit from a course. A couple more casually ski, and everyone else wakeboards, surfs, or skates. These lakes are designed for the big wake family crowd.

    To your point, I do think CCRs and Lake Rules must be well established and enforced. Having experience with multifamily resort communities is what entices me to add them here. With single family homes only, enforcement of rules is difficult. These types of luxury multifamily resort communities have a full time property manager, with staff and grounds crew to keep everyone in line. It's also why I prefer community boats. Huge bummer to be in the middle of your turn and have several other boats idling down the lake jockeying for position. I've considered not allowing private boats at all.

    From my personal perspective, I would rather not have to buy and maintain my own $75-100K boat. I'd rather not be a weekend warrior, but my family situation won't allow anything else. In my experience that's how most of my peers are too. If $10/month HOA fee gets me all the use I need on a nice boat right outside my back door, I'm in. Even still I'd probably only get on a ski less than a dozen days per year. That's just the reality for guys in my similar circumstances.
  • WolfeieWolfeie Posts: 186 Baller
    Have you looked at liability insurance in gated vs. not gated? I would think you open up the HOA to a lot more liability in a non gated community. Are you going to have a lake patrol when it is open to all? What is going to stop ids from outside the community from making it their swim and party hole?

    I think 40' centerline is pretty narrow and you exposing the shorelines to big waves from
    wake boats.
    Brad Wolfe - Ski West Village, Arvin, Ca; Radar Pro Build, SN 200, I can see Ball of Spray headquarters from my lake house.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @ToddF project is in Utah
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller

    It isn't a liability insurance issue. The cost to maintain a gated community of this size are very high. Once it is gated the HOA must take care of everything from snow removal and garbage, to road and common utility maintenance. We've been able to assess both gated and non-gated versions in this region. The non-gated ones have not had any of the problems you suggest. Ironically, the only incident I've heard of was at the most exclusive gated one in which a small high school party got way out of control.

    I think you misread the centerline description. There will be 80ft width at full 10ft depth, there will be 160ft width at ski-able depth, and another 30ft of shallow buffer beyond that on either side.
  • fu_manfu_man Posts: 511 Crazy Baller
    edited January 2019
    Surf boats on a 220' wide lake? Won't that trash the shoreline rapidly? 210 units sharing 2 little ski pits and 2 days a week is no wake? Only allowing 10 minute sets? This just does not sound appealing regardless of what kind of recreation you may want to pursue on the lakes. There are about 200 lake/channel front homes on our lake but it is 375+ acres.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller

    I'm open to recommendations on lake design. I searched dozens of other lake sites and recommendations through this forum. 220ft width without private docks was pretty close to the sweet spot. Wide enough to have room to play for the big wake crowd, but narrow enough to minimize wind chop.

    I totally understand your sentiments on the density. I fully admit this is a different concept than most other private lakes. I'm not sure what the ideal density is, but in my experience, the other lakes in the region are extremely underused. With only 30 homes on 2 lakes I can pretty much pick any random time to stop by and won't see a skier on the water. Half of the waterfront owners never use the water at all, just wanna live there for the environment. Some buy a lot so they can bribe the kids to bring the grandkids more. Basketball, soccer, football, dance.... many reasons to live on a lake and then not ever use it.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @scotchipman I very much respect your input. I've read a ton of your posts. Had no idea you were at Stillwater. My wife and I looked at lots there but circumstances prevented it. Best thing about stillwater is that it is actually along the Wasatch Front. Can work in SLC and still get a run in before dusk.
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,524 Administrator
    @Such_a_brett I have a real lake dev consultant. If you want to get a consultation email me.

    [email protected]

    Support BallOfSpray by supporting the companies that support BallOfSpray

    Connelly ☆DBSkis ☆Denali ☆Goode ☆GiveGo ☆MasterCraft ☆ Masterline 

    Performance Ski and Surf ☆ Reflex ☆ Radar ☆ Rodics OffCourse ☆ S Lines ☆ Stokes ☆

  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @Horton are you a consultant, or are you recommending one? We will likely be hiring one before breaking ground.
  • HortonHorton Posts: 32,524 Administrator
    @Such_a_brett I am not.

    I know a guy who is otherwise highly respected in the sport & who has designed and consulted on the engineering of lake projects.

    I am intentionally being vague here...

    Support BallOfSpray by supporting the companies that support BallOfSpray

    Connelly ☆DBSkis ☆Denali ☆Goode ☆GiveGo ☆MasterCraft ☆ Masterline 

    Performance Ski and Surf ☆ Reflex ☆ Radar ☆ Rodics OffCourse ☆ S Lines ☆ Stokes ☆

  • jimskijimski Posts: 622 Crazy Baller
    You will need a minimum of 20 ft depth for the big wake - surf boats to build a decent wake and you will defenatly destroy your shoreline with only 220 ft width
    No ramp or slalom course, I'm out
  • BraceMakerBraceMaker Posts: 5,134 Mega Baller
    220 is awesome... for skiing.

    @jimski is right, my critique is you have designed two tournament quality ski lakes that are just barely adequate for wake sports but then state that's the audience. Generally surfers sould do better with a bowed shoreline so they could set up and run an arch along with minimum depth along that arch of 10 with a stretch of about 14-20 feet so you can really build a wave. I would also comment that wakeboarders would likely want a wider area at both ends so the driver could execute a double up path, 220 is not much when you have 85 feet of rope out and a ballasted boat.

    Similarly where would the wake enthusiasts place the sliders and kickers?

    I'd be really curious as to what the wake crowd thinks.

    finally, proximity to schools and neighborhoods. The number if ski lake lot owners who move to town so their kids are closer to activities and leave the lake life for years is up there. My wife and I have looked at a few and she wont have it.

  • jimskijimski Posts: 622 Crazy Baller
    Travis @theboardingschool could give you some good advise on the lake end of it
  • wartwart Posts: 35 Baller
    As BraceMaker noted, you have designed two tournament quality (3-event) quality ski lakes.
    If a 3-event ski family found your development, they would immediately recognize the lakes.
    At the same time, I suspect a family that enjoys the water sports you noted would not see the lakes as desirable. That is, a big boat needs a big lake.

    I used to live in a water ski community much like your design. Wake sport families did not buy. Instead families looking for a peaceful water setting and/or fishing moved in. Then their first objective was to change the C&R to end the use of power boats.
    This was in the Midwest. Maybe, Utah families will have a different perspective.

    Seems like marketing will be everything.

    Oh, and I think there was a community recently developed in Texas... maybe near Woodlands?
    That had a goal similar to yours.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @BraceMaker and @jimski

    I really appreciate the input and critique.

    I had originally drafted up a version of this layout that had two arclinear lakes to better accomplish a surf wake. Again the problem there was that I would be specialty building for the minority crowd (expert level surfers) at the exclusion of waterskiers. Also, as a developer I know that plat layout gets much more difficult and curvelinear roadways are dramatically more expensive which would either increase lot price significantly or significantly reduce investor returns.

    I also did a version that had two convex lakes (220ft ends width and 400 ft width in middle). The benefits were that big wake sports curve take a curved path, with a slalom course down the middle. Also nice was that homes along the shoreline have much better sightlines. Unfortunately, the cost of the project skyrocketed and revenues were dramatically diminished. That just isn't feasible.

    I should clarify, I don't intend to completely exclude slalom, I just don't plan to cater to comp level slalom skiers at the expense of the much larger family crowd. IOW, if I build the lake narrower and shallower with islands for slalom, I've just eliminated wake sports. I need to find the best sweet spot where wakeboarders will feel comfortable and safe, the majority of skiers will consider it better than anything they can get at a local public reservoir, and it would be considered just adequate to be playful for surfers. There will be no ramps or kickers. We aren't trying to compete with boat clubs or cable parks. We are catering to the local crowd that trailers their boat down to the local reservoir and weaves through 20-30 other boats trying to find the elusive flat water. Demographic seems to be about 5% comp level skiers, 10-15% moderate skiers, 60% wakeboard, 10-15% surf, and 5% skate. All but a few of these wakeboarders wouldn't know how to create a double-up, let alone know how to jump off one. 80% of them are just trying to teach their kids how to jump the wake. The occasional backroll, raley, or tantrum are rare treats around here.

    Once those objectives have been met to create appeal, the acreage must be efficiently utilized with the least amount of wasted road frontage possible. No single sided roads and as few corner lots as possible. Waterfront residences must be maximized, and the community should be built to operate like a resort community. Lots of community amenities and a full time property management staff. Your point about location is a good one. That's exactly why we've chosen this location. There is a brand new large elementary school right across the street on the north end. Churches and suburban neighborhoods surround the west,east, and south. A brand new 5A high school 1 mile down the road. The middle school is 2 miles. A new wallmart supercenter, Marriot, business/restaurant hub is 2 miles. A 30,000 student university is about 4 miles away. The city is one of the fastest growing in the nation. 30% population increase over the last 7 years. Population doubles every 17 years. Unlike most other private lake developments, this one is inside the suburban metro area, not 20 miles from town.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    I fully understand and accept that the most avid slalom skiers with private club membership might not consider this community ideal. But there is a HUGE number of families in the intermountain west who would love to live on a lake, can only break away for a day on the water about 5-10 times a year, and settle for a $25k used i/o because spending $75-100k on a Malibu or Ski Nautique to use 5 times a year just isn't in the cards.

    Unfortunately, spending $400-500k on a waterfront lot prices them out again. This development aims to solve that problem.

  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    edited January 2019
    Thanks for the feedback. It seems from the responses that the biggest change to help accommodate the intended wake crowd would be to widen the lakes slightly. I could relatively easily widen to 250ft without a noticeable change in budget or revenue.

    BTW, no fish in the lake and the fact that my company - which owns the condo buildings - would retain most of the HOA board seats would make it really difficult for residents to try to change the CCRs or eliminate power boats. :smiley:
  • lpskierlpskier Posts: 3,814 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I would think 220’ would also be a bit narrow for tubing. Is >2000 feel long enough for a shell? And could you turn around at the ends? As discussed in another recent topic, 10 minutes isn’t much water time for a skier. Lastly, if you don’t have fish and hence fishermen, you could install a sinking slalom course on one of the lakes to perhaps broaden your consumer base without mucking up your general water sports plan too much.

    Danny Anderson in Ottawa Ontario built a few developments similar to your idea with larger residential neighborhoods incorporating ski lakes, so from the development side he could be a good resource although his are tournament slalom lakes.
    John Wilkins- Si non pro sanguine quem ludus ne. #iskiconnelly
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @lpskier thanks for the input.

    I'm very hesitant about tubing. My first inclination is no tubing. Seems like unnecessary liability.

    I've gotten a lot of feedback on rider time and it seems 15min is ideal.
  • MISkierMISkier Posts: 3,463 Mega Baller
    edited January 2019
    Placid Waters in Allendale, MI is trying something similar to what is proposed here. After having 3 slalom lakes completed, they are reworking their original 6 lake slalom site into a larger, more open configuration with more lots. They had amenities proposed (clubhouse, etc.). Here is a list of reasons why they failed in their original configuration:

    1. The project was built during the 2006-2008 real estate crash.
    2. Lot prices were $300,000+
    3. Lot size was less than 1/2 acre and very short from road to water.
    4. No docks/lifts allowed, unless you dug into the already undersized lot. Otherwise, you had to trailer your boat to the one launch and traverse to an unoccupied lake.
    5. Lake 2 was dug 20 feet deep to allow for wakeboarding and surfing. Consequently, it skied horribly.
    6. Wind protection was not very good.

    I don’t know if they will succeed this time. After ripping out the peninsula separating two of the slalom lakes and enlarging the 3rd lake to more than 3 times it’s size, I suspect it might be enough water for boarding/surfing.

    What is proposed here sounds just like what we have in Michigan at other locations as well. We call them public lakes and there are thousands here that already have such things as no wake times, no motors, and/or complete and utter deference to every other water activity except slalom and jump.

    It will be interesting to see how the project proposed here will fare.
    The worst slalom equipment I own is between my ears.
  • LarsLars Posts: 234 Solid Baller
    Agree with @lpskier on the submersible course, that might keep the appeal open to more people.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    edited January 2019
    @MISkier Thanks for the info.

    After reviewing dozens of sites, I cannot ever make the numbers or concept work with low density residential. To do 2 lakes with 15 waterfront homes, the lots would need to price at $450K to not lose money. With the proper layout, once I get to 30 homes, I can price them at $300K and make a small profit, but nowhere near a realistic developer margin. In both of these scenarios, land would need to be perfectly shaped ( long rectangle), and HOA fees would need to be $200-400/month. In this region it would take about 6-10 years for the market to absorb the lots at those prices. At nearly 60 waterfront lots, and another 50 non-waterfront, I can maintain a realistic developer margin with the average waterfront lot at $185K and non-waterfront at $115K. For perspective, the neighboring subdivision is selling equivalent sized lots at $95K.

    To address your points on why they failed...
    1. Hopefully we aren't going to crash again like 2008, but the market is softening. However, this is expected to be a 10 year project, which is the typical length of a real estate cycle, so it is hard to imagine not enduring a softening period at some point.
    2. Mentioned above, but we will have some waterfront lots listed at just $140K. As a developer, I try to maintain a situation where the land value is 1/4 or less of total sale price. At the intended prices I can maintain that.
    3. We created a staggered size configuration. Those wanting either a modest home on 1/4 acre or just a lot that they won't ever build on, can choose the smaller more economic route. Those needing more than 1/2 are able to combine lots. People will have a choice of 1/4, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, and 3/4 acre. Waterfront lots will price per square foot. We went with deeper lot configurations (155ft) to allow flexibility in design. Our lots are 30ft deeper than those of Stillwater Lakes about 40 minutes from here. They just sold their last lot. Typical lots of similar size in the higher end neighborhoods of this region are 130-170ft deep.
    4. Not sure where we will go with this. The concept is to simply not have any private docks. Inclusion of private docks essentially increases the price per lot by about $40K ($75K if we provide a modest boathouse with each lot). I would much rather operate a community boat system and not have private boats on the water, both for coordination and liability reasons.
    5. Our depth will be 10-12'. Just enough to create reasonable wakes with good boats. We don't intend to cater to surfers at the expense of everyone else. A private lake about 20 minutes from here is about 10ft deep. An average rider seems to be able to surf there just fine.
    6. We've positioned the lakes as best we could to avoid the prevailing north/south winds, but also avoid east/west sun problems. The large multifamily building on each end should assist with wind problems while trees grow in.
    I would say there is one dramatic difference between our location and Michigan. Waterfront property in MI is plentiful and doesn't command a dramatically higher price; there are lakes everywhere. Utah is the 2nd dryest state in the nation. Waterfront property is very rare here and commands a huge premium. That's why you see $450-550K waterfront lot prices, where equivalent lots in those areas would be >$75K.
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @Than_Bogan Totally understand your opinion.

    We have great fishing all throughout this region. We are right on the border of southern ID that is famous for fishing. I'm a fly fisherman. Rivers mainly but some lake fishing and most guys I know are similar to me. I can't think of anything more boring than to walk off my back deck and fish out of a small man-made stock pond. The kind of fishing we do is more like a hunt along the rivers. OTOH, if I lived on a larger natural lake, I'd love to hop in my kayak with a rod after work. This development would just be throwing a hook into blue dyed water and hoping something bites it. I don't see the fun in that and it's just one more thing to maintain.

    The way I see it, those people who want something very specific must be willing to pay a premium or endure a hardship to have it. If you live here and want the luxury of being able to ski a glassy shallow slalom course at a moment's notice without having to wait your turn any day of the week, with other comp level skiers, you'll be spending $500K for the lot, commuting an extra 25 minutes to work each day, and shelling out $75K+ for a boat.

    My target are those who want to be within 5-10 minutes of the office. Their family dynamic guarantees that a $75K boat would be a waste of money. And the only chance they have at glass water is a brief window between 6am-7am if they can beat everyone else to the water.

    You are talking about a country club. I'm talking about a resort. I don't have a problem with either of those preferences. I just can't make the numbers work on the country club version, and we already have a few within a short drive.
  • oldjeepoldjeep Posts: 3,889 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I'm trying to imagine how trashed community boats are going to be.
    Chuck P
    Not a mechanic but I play one at home
  • Such_a_brettSuch_a_brett Posts: 136 Baller
    @Lars I'm considering the submersible course. Just don't really want the maintenance and liability. I have one friend who broke a foot hitting a submerged buoy. The problem with them are that they work best if kept closer to the surface, but they are also more dangerous then too. But then, I also know people injured from hitting permanent buoys, so...
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 7,054 Mega Baller
    Good stuff. Seems like you are thinking clearly with your eyes open.

    It's always hard to understand that people-who-are-not-me may have preferences, goals, and situations that-are-not-mine!
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
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