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AN EQUESTRIAN IMAGE IN A CLOSE-TO-TOWN LOCALE\ NORTH GUILFORD DEVELOPMENTS OFFER SECLUSION

AN EQUESTRIAN IMAGE IN A CLOSE-TO-TOWN LOCALE\ NORTH GUILFORD DEVELOPMENTS OFFER SECLUSION

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It's a postcard scene reminiscent of northern Virginia.

Two miles of white wooden fences. Ten acres of rolling pastureland just perfect for horses. A four-stall brick barn. An 11-room Georgian-style mansion set far back from the road.Actually, this scene can be found in northern Guilford County - one of the newer havens for ``the horsey set.'

It's the home of Fran and Rich Rowlenson and their 6-year-old daughter, Mary.

``For us it was the perfect solution,' says Fran Rowlenson, a horse owner and experienced rider. ``I can have my cake and eat it too.'

The Rowlensons live on a 14-acre tract at Moss Creek, an equestrian-centered development along N.C. 150 near Brown Summit.

Moss Creek, which is developed by Byron Investments, features a privately owned, 22-stall stone barn and lighted riding rings surrounded by exclusive residential lots.

Moss Creek is one of two such developments taking shape north of Greensboro.

The other is Polo Farms, south of N.C. 150 along Strawberry Road and adjoining Lake Brandt. Developed by Performance Investments, Polo Farms also features a barn and a small polo field.

Both developers have spent huge sums of money to create an equestrian image around their property.

But somewhat surprisingly, spokesmen for both tend to downplay their horse amenities.

``I don't want people to think Moss Creek is just for horse lovers,' says Marcia Hobson, director of development for Byron Investments.

In fact, Hobson says that fewer than a third of the people at Moss Creek own horses or ride.

She says Moss Creek appeals to people who have lived in the city and are looking for a place to build their dream home.

``They want to get away without going a long distance,' Hobson says.

Carter Allen, director of operations at Polo Farms, tells much the same story.

``It doesn't all hinge on polo,' Allen says. ``We can accommodate somebody with a horse, but most of the people who are purchasing here (like) the mid-size club facility we have.'

In addition to the clubhouse and an arena polo field, Polo Farms also features a competition-size swimming pool and tennis courts. Later will come croquet greens and a softball field.

All that means that residents aren't required to know the difference between a Clydesdale and a Shetland pony.

But the equestrian influence at these developments is difficult to ignore.

``It is amazing how many people who don't like horses just like to stand at a fence and watch them,' says Fran Rowlenson.

After all, not everybody who lives on a golf course plays golf.

For years, area developers have capitalized on the appeal of horses to name their residential communities - everything from Strawberry Hill Horse Farm to Coachman's Trail to Thoroughbred Run.

Others feature white fences and pastures, but no barns.

Hobson says few residential developments in North Carolina actually offer working stables, pastures and riding trails.

That's what Fran Rowlenson and her family discovered when they moved to Greensboro from Fairfax, Va., four years ago.

``We came from an area where everyone had five-acre mini-estates, where everyone had horses and we shared the same mutual interests,' she says. ``There was nothing like that until Moss Creek got started.'

The Rowlensons lived on Redford Drive in New Irving Park before moving to the country.

She boarded the one horse she had at the time.

``I was miserable,' she says.

Rowlenson says the minifarms at Moss Creek appealed to her because she could build her own barn, keep more horses and care for them the way she wanted and still use the other facilities that the development offers.

``It came as close to perfect as you can get,' she says. ``This is actually a working farm. Things aren't just pink and pretty.'

Moss Creek has set aside 80 acres for minifarms, which are 10 acres or more, and sell for $12,500 an acre.

Other lots are 1 to 3 acres and range in price from $49,000 to $72,000.

Development of Moss Creek began in September 1987. To date, Hobson says 23 lots have been sold.

Eight families have moved in and four others are getting ready to build.

Over the next 10-15 years, Moss Creek is to grow to 800 homes on 1,800 acres.

At Polo Farms, sales began in October 1989.

``The day we opened the door we had about a half a dozen people standing in line to buy a particular site,' Allen says. ``This is some of the prettiest property in the county.'

Allen says 52 lots have been sold. Eight houses are completed or under construction. One is occupied.

Lots are from 1 to 3 1/2 acres and range in price from $49,500 to $189,500, the latter being a large parcel overlooking a lake.

Houses at Polo Farms must contain a minimum of 2,800 square feet of heated space.

``What's up right now is running from $350,000 to $500,000,' Allen says.

When completed, Polo Farms will have around 200 homes on about 400 acres.

Both Allen and Hobson believe there's a demand for such exclusive developments, adding that they've seen a surge in interest in recent weeks.

``As a matter of fact,' Allen says, ``we've sold 14 since Christmas. That's the worst real estate period you generally have.'

Not all of Guilford's equestrian-centered developments are in the northern part of the county.

In 1985, Martin Schlaeppi, a partner in a High Point accounting firm, began developing Fox Run Farms, 230 acres along Johnson Street Extension and Skeet Club Road in northwest High Point.

The property features 13 minifarms ranging from 5 to 17 acres. All but two have been sold.

The development features two barns, two riding rings, 16 paddocks and a lake.

As is the case at similar developments in the county, most of the residents don't ride or own horses.

``Most just don't want to live in a city,' says Catherine Schlaeppi. ``They don't want to live in a development.'

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