Once a public campground, Shinitzky purchased the pristine river property with plans to develop a private, gated community with a total of 32 small lots.
The Nantahala River is surrounded by national forest, making the Mystic River development a rare opportunity to own a piece of land in the gorge. Despite pushback from the outdoor recreation community who felt the development would destroy the natural setting of the Nantahala Gorge, the lots sold in a matter of weeks following an aggressive marketing campaign. People paid between $225,000 and $375,000 for lots that on average were only one-third of an acre.
The economy and the housing market were in a much different state in 2006, but with the recession hitting everyone hard in 2007, developers all over the country were in way over their heads. Many developers building large up-scale subdivisions in Western North Carolina cut their losses during the height of the recession, leaving property owners in the lurch on their investments.
Shinitzky also made many promises to the people buying up lots — Mystic Lands was going to be a nirvana with topnotch amenities including a clubhouse and observatory on top of the ridge. Shinitzky was proud to say on the stand that he was one of the few developers determined to stick it out after the real estate bubble burst — after all he was also a property owner in the Mystic Lands community.
“I have built this place and loved this place and sacrificed for 12 years and spent millions only to try to steal a few thousand dollars? Are you kidding me?” Shinitzky said while testifying.
Even though the lots sold at record speed, home construction was slow moving as property owners waited for a better economic climate to construct their dream second homes.
By 2012, construction was rebounding and nearly a dozen property owners began designing and building their Mystic River homes. Things were looking up and all the property owners were working hand in hand with Shinitzky to see the completion of more homes and the amenities promised to them.
But patience wore thin by 2015 when homeowners weren’t seeing any progress being made — the specialized septic systems needed for the river property weren’t provided, roads up to the Mystic Ridge properties weren’t being paved and construction of the clubhouse and observatory wasn’t being done.
Property owners finally made contributions in the form of a $550,000 loan to get the clubhouse completed. Shinitzky did eventually pay back that loan to the POA members, but that was just the beginning of the financial struggles between property owners and the developer.
Construction of the observatory, a facility where homeowners could view the nighttime sky from the top of the ridge, didn’t get underway until the plaintiffs were already in court with Shinitzky. While property owners are happy it got done, the facility is definitely not what they were told it would be. An artist rendering shared with property owners displays a much nicer dome-shaped observatory while what was actually built looks like a small modular building with an observatory dome on top of it.