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VOL. 116 | NO. 195 | Tuesday, October 8, 2002

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The Lakes at Bonne Terre ready for development

Scenic Bonne Terre readies for new development

By SUE PEASE

The Daily News

A new development in Nesbit, Miss., is poised to offer homeowners the same type of French country and Southern classical architectural style that the Bonne Terre Country Inn & Caf has made hospitable to the towns business and leisure clients for the past six years.

Max Bonnin, owner of the inn, is set to begin development of a gated community called The Lakes at Bonne Terre on 78 acres of surrounding property.

The residential community marks the final phase of a project Bonnin and his late wife, June, planned for the wooded, rolling Mississippi property they purchased in 1995.

This is the final part of a dream June and I had, Bonnin said.

The Lakes at Bonne Terre has been in the works for four to five years, but it has taken time to find the right development partners, Bonnin said.

Patton, Taylor and Ryan is the firm teaming up with Bonnin to build the 78-lot community, which Bonnin envisions to be geared to empty-nesters.

The unique feature in this whole development is the fact that Bonne Terre, which exists now with the fine dining restaurant and inn, is already here, he said.

So, its very attractive to people who are empty-nesters who want to downsize and still look for quality. They can walk or ride a golf cart over and sign up for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

For homeowners downsizing into smaller homes, Bonnin envisions guests and family using the inn when visiting.

The development contains three sections that offer three different parcel sizes: half-acre to 1.75-acre parcels around the lake; 1- to 2-acre lots; and a third, smaller, section called The Villas, which offers 90-by-120 lots.

The lots surround a recently built 7-acre lake.

Home sizes have not been determined yet, but Bonnin said he thinks they will range from 2,800 square feet to 6,500 square feet.

Lot construction should begin in November, and lots should be ready for viewing at the beginning of the year, he said.

He expects the homes to be complete in two years.

Bonne Terre began six years ago as a 10-room inn and caf, and has evolved into a complex that includes a 15-room inn, fine-dining restaurant, gift shop, chapel and Ashley Hall, a reception hall that accommodates up to 300 people for wedding receptions, business meetings and conferences.

The inn is nestled among a setting of lakes, wooded trails and pecan groves, an environment that attracts many visitors from the nearby Memphis area for rejuvenating weekends.

What began as a destination for weekend getaways has become a sought-after milieu for people celebrating special events. Bonnin said hosting special occasions including corporate events provides 90 percent of the inns business. International guests provide 10 percent, he said.

Because the inn is only 20 minutes from Memphis, businesses such as law firms, banks and health care companies often use the facility for off-site meetings and retreats during the week, Bonnin said.

The facilitys chapel, which was built in 2000, has resulted in a bustling wedding and reception business for the inn.

Bonnin attributes the business growth and success to its consistent quality over the years, and said the expansion realizes his and Junes dream.

I think June would be smiling, he said. I think things turned out exactly the way we planned eight or nine years ago.

Bonnins wife was killed in an Amtrak train wreck in Bourbonnais, Ill., in 1999.

Bonnin, who lives on the Bonne Terre property, is considering turning his house into a day spa and building a home elsewhere on the property for he and his daughter, Ashley.

In addition to the gated community, Bonnin plans to add 40 new rooms to the inn to accommodate corporate clients looking to book rooms during executive meetings.

The new rooms are planned as a collection of cottages in a Colonial Williamsburg design, similar to the style of the existing gift shop.

In the middle of the cottages, Bonnin plans to add a conference center, which will accommodate 75 people.

While the gated community will be part of the Bonne Terre property, the inn will keep its secluded atmosphere, Bonnin said.

You can access Bonne Terre by walking through the trees, but it wont do anything to detract from the ambiance we have now, he said.

We are going to be very careful and make sure everything is in harmony.

Although the gated-community is situated along a two-lane road in rural Mississippi, local officials said they believe the community is able to support a large, exclusive community.

Anthie Sutterfield, Northwest Mississippi Association of Realtors executive officer, said Desoto Countys rapid growth is going in all directions, and she believes there will be demand for the homes.

I dont see a problem with it, she said.

RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 51 333 19,446
MORTGAGES 68 383 22,433
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 86 2,922
BUILDING PERMITS 138 688 40,004
BANKRUPTCIES 34 238 12,486
BUSINESS LICENSES 35 108 6,374
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 21 123 7,395
MARRIAGE LICENSES 20 92 4,453