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Real estate: Litchfield Plantation deal leads to cut in density

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Management and development on one of Waccamaw Neck’s oldest gated communities has changed hands under an agreement announced last week.

Scott Trotter and Logan Trotter will buy Litchfield Plantation from Louise Parsons, who began development on the 600-acre tract in 1971.

The agreement allows the Trotters to develop and sell the remaining 80 acres and manage the amenities, which include the 18th-century planation house and the Carriage House Club.

“It gives us all the same tools” as an outright purchase, Scott Trotter said. “It’s still their property, but we’re the new face of the plantation.”

The plantation ran into financial problems in the late 1970s and two high-profile lawsuits hampered sales in the 1980s and ’90s. In 30 years, only about 50 of 560 units were developed.

Trotter created a master plan for Litchfield Plantation that cuts the total density to 325 units.

Lot sales will fund the purchase and infrastructure.

“I think the market is going to come back faster here than anywhere else,” Trotter said. “People see the value here.”

There have been $2.5 million in sales in the plantation this year.

“We’re starting to feel the bottom,” he said.

Cutting a deal, then cutting density

By Charles Swenson

Less is more.

That formula worked for Scott Trotter when he was part of the groups that took over DeBordieu and Prince George in the 1990s.

When he announced last week that he and his son, Logan, have a contract to buy Litchfield Plantation, it was followed by the presentation of a master plan for the property that reduces the number of homes from 560 to 325.

“We’re cutting density,” Scott Trotter said. “People like that.”

Litchfield Plantation has been owned by Louise Parsons since the late 1960s. Development began in 1971. The plantation ran into financial problems in the late ’70s. Two high-profile lawsuits in the 1980s and late 1990s put a damper on sales. In 30 years, just over 50 units were sold, but less than 30 were bought by someone other than the developer.

Trotter was finishing up at DeBordieu when the second of the two Litchfield Plantation suits was settled after reaching the state Supreme Court in 2004. He has known Parsons for 35 years and a mutual friend suggested he call her.

“I’ve always wanted to buy it,” Trotter said.

What he got was a five-year sales and marketing agreement. He and Logan developed two new phases of Litchfield Plantation: 26 single-family homesites and 22 townhouses.

They planned to use another phase of single-family lots to leverage the buyout. Then the national real estate market collapsed.

“Our goal was to get out of debt and fight another day,” Trotter said.

In the last six months, they’ve sold $2.5 million in property. “We’re starting to get a little buzz about the place,” he said.

But prices are still below their peak. And the buyout, which includes 80 acres of undeveloped property, is being fueled by discounted sales on 47 lots with views of the river, creek and marsh. The target is $3 million in sales, “then stop and price to the market,” Trotter said.

A big part of the effort was creating the master plan, the first ever for the 600-acre property. Previous maps of the project showed areas marked “future development,” and that scared off buyers.

Trotter has also taken over management of the plantation, and plans to build relationships with the long-time owners as well as the new buyers.

“We are the new face of the plantation,” he said. “The main thing is to create a sense of community.”

The Litchfield Plantation house, which dates to the 18th century, is run as an inn. The adjoining carriage house has been run as a private club.

Trotter plans to open the restaurant to the public while creating additional amenities for residents. Five percent of all sales will go into a fund for upgrading amenities. Those include a playground, new pools and a walking trail that will follow the dikes in the former ricefields.

The plantation will host the wine festival held as a benefit for the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art, and Trotter wants to attract other cultural activities to the facilities.

“The property owners are excited to see this change in management,” he said. One long-time resident told him the buyout announcement was the best news she’d had in 30 years.

Litchfield Plantation also has a marina off the Waccamaw River. The 60 slips are being sold individually. Sales will finance dredging of the entrance, which already has permits, and construction of a yacht club.

The plantation also has a beach club on the north end of Pawleys Island. It will also be upgraded with the other amenities.

The first improvement will be a reconfiguration of the entrance from Kings River Road into the iconic allée of live oaks, a $250,000 project to improve traffic flow. The gatehouse will move to allow cars turning into the plantation to get off Kings River. Two exit-only gates will be added at each end of the property.

That work is due to begin this week, and it provides a central metaphor for Trotter’s plans for Litchfield Plantation.

“I’ve started talking about unlocking the values,” he said.

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