By John Schaffner
Tucked within a 4.5 mile bend in the Chattahoochee River, Huntcliff is a Sandy Springs neighborhood that daily commuters along Roswell Road between the river and points south can easily pass by without even knowing it is there.
But Huncliff is one of the most beautiful of the new city’s neighborhoods, forms the city’s northwest border and can be considered somewhat unique because it has 3,800 feet of river frontage and 55 acres of land along the river, 33 acres of natural buffer on which nothing can be built.
Huntcliff also presents one of the Chattahoochee River’s most idyllic views for people at Roswell’s river park, because of the horse stables and riding facilities that are right along the river in the flood plain.
Huntcliff has another amenity that is unusual for Sandy Springs neighborhoods. Its houses surround the 36 holes of the Cherokee Country Club, which was formed in 1955, 13 years before the neighborhood was formally chartered.
Huntcliff has a total of 460 lots and almost 450 homes at present count. One is presently under construction and there still remain 11 vacant lots, although they may be difficult to find.
According to Huntcliff Homes Association President Jim Stockslager, there are 19 homes that are exempt from the association because they were built before the association and covenants were established in 1968.
Another unusual aspect of Huntcliff is that it takes 100 percent of the homeowners to vote any change in the covenants. “You can’t get 100 percent on anything,” he said.
Stockslager recalled that the original developer was named Bonner, but Surety Investment owned it when Huntcliff was officially formed. He said Tom Cousins was one of the three developers along the way and reportedly got into trouble and it was taken over by the financial backer, Liberty Mutual.
Because of the terrain, Stockslager said there are some extreme difficulties in building on some of the lots. “The subdivision is on septic tanks everywhere but a couple of places,” he said.
The Huntcliff River Club at river’s edge is on sewage and the area behind the Summit retirement home on Hightower Trail and Roswell Road also is for one street. Most of the homes on Hightower are on sewage, because the line goes up to the Cherokee Country Club he said.
Stockslager joined Cherokee Country Club when it was formed in 1955 and Hightower Trail was a dirt road. He lived in Sandy Springs then on Long Island Court in a house he bought for $17,500.
Cherokee bought a farm of over 100-acres at the end of Hightower. That was enough for 18 holes. They later expanded their property when the development began and the streets were put around it so that the developer could get more money for the lots. Some of the streets have names like 16th Fairway.
Stockslager built his house in Huntcliff in 1977. By that time many homes had already been developed along Huntcliff Trace, the road that loops around the development from Roswell Road across from the Publix shopping center to Hightower Trail, which intersects with Roswell Road at the Summit retirement high-rise.
The association president said 30-50 homes a year turn over in Huntcliff, but added it has slowed in the past five years. “People aren’t moving as much as they used to,” he explained. “When I was working, if a company said they were moving you, you moved on. Those days have changed.”
Stockslager said small homes today in Huntcliff run in the “$300,000 range and they go up from there to over $2 million. The average price today is in the high $600,000 and $700,000.”
Anyone who moves into Huntcliff, except for the exempt properties, pays $600 a year. “That gives them the privilege to rent the Huntcliff River Club at the same price as members in that club. “Any Huntcliff function at the River Club, they are entitled to come,” he said. “It also entitles homeowners to the same rights as club members with regards to the stables.” The stables are rented out to an independent operator, but homeowners get a better rate than a non-Huntcliff resident for boarding a horse.
“But, if you want to be a River Club member the dues are an extra $900 a year and there is a $1,000 initiation fee,” he explained. With that members get the additional benefits of swim and tennis and special club functions. If the club has a party, it does not have to invite everyone in Huntcliff.
“There is a reasonable relationship between the club and homeowners. But some people think they have been here so long that they should be club members for free,” Stockslager said. “But it doesn’t work that way.” He said the club pays $2,000 a month for electricity for its operations.
He said the homeowners are not very active in regards to the association. “It is tough to get people to serve on the board. I have been president for five years. I can’t find anyone who wants to do it,” he said. “I have agreed to do it two more and that is it. I said when I hit 80 I am out of here.”
He said the River Club membership is younger than the average age of the residents. “The average age of the club is in the 40s. The average in the homes is probably in the 60s,” he added.
The present two-story River Club replaced a one-story stone building “that was kind of nice for small gatherings, but it had no function room. It was 30 years old and they never put any money into it,” Stockslager said.
The club at one time was part of the Homes Association and was run back in the 1970s by the horse people. “A lot of homeowners didn’t want any part of the horses. So the homeowners let them break off and have the club the horse operations and all the costs that went with it,” he explained. “The horses were a drain. But it is a good investment for us now and we are making money off of it and own the property.”
To put everything together, a limited liability corporation was formed, called the Huntcliff River Preserve. It is owned 50 percent by the club and 50 percent by the homeowners association.
The clubhouse, tennis courts and horse stables—which will hold 32 horses—are in the flood plain for the Chatahoochee River. “Lake Lanier controls whether we are flooded or not,” Stockslager said. The clubhouse is built four feet above the 100-year flood plain. At the stables, the club worked with the U.S. Agricultural Department to put down small rock so that if it floods it drains quickly.
A little dampness underfoot occasionally might be considered a small price to pay for such unique amenities in such an idyllic setting along the Chattahoochee River.