He was a victim of a soft real estate market, however. Tomorrow, the members of the golf club that Raymond created in 2003 - the linchpin of a massive development forecast at more than $100 million at the time - will buy him out and take over ownership.
Of the 105 golfers who are members, 92 invested a minimum $40,000 each to finance the purchase; 11 others have yet to decide whether they'll do so.
One golfer is moving away, and the other member, Bryan Townsend, filed suit against Raymond in Salem Superior Court this week, claiming the developer breached his contract with him by not permitting him to use the course.
The purchase is of the golf course and its facilities alone, not any of the surrounding residential properties Raymond was also developing when the real estate market crash and competition from a host of other new golf courses brought the project to a standstill.
Club members Brian Girvan and Bob Talbot spearheaded the drive to buy the club.
"We feel we got a very good deal," Talbot said. "We're very excited."
To finance the purchase, which is scheduled to close tomorrow, members were given two options: Spend $40,000 for a nonrefundable initiation fee, or invest $75,000 or more for a membership that could make them some money.
If they decide to leave the club, they'll be able to redeem 90 percent of their investment. If the membership sold for $100,000, the member would get $90,000.
If golfers wait until after tomorrow's close to join, their $75,000 joining fee will be redeemed at 80 percent. In other words, they'll get a maximum $60,000, no matter what the membership sells for.
Members also pay a yearly $10,000 membership fee.
Although Townsend's suit alleges he was not allowed to use the course, George Goich, Turner Hill's director of golf, said all members were welcome to use the course until the closing, whether they were continuing their membership or not.
Calls to Townsend and his attorney, William Sheehan, were not returned yesterday.
32 new members
Talbot said yesterday many prospective members have not joined in recent years because they knew Raymond was in financial straits and the future of the club was in doubt. Now that the members have taken over, that's changed, he said.
"Our membership drive generated tremendous, tremendous momentum," Talbot said. The club will actually be bigger after the sale than before, Talbot said, as 32 new people have already signed up. Membership is capped at 350.
Celtics coach Glen "Doc" Rivers and former Red Sox pitcher and current commentator Dennis Eckersley are among the current members who chose to continue their memberships, Talbot said.
Turner Hill was the first property developed under Ipswich's Great Estates Bylaw, which was designed to prevent overdevelopment on four large properties in town. The bylaw protects the town from major changes in the original permits, meaning Raymond's promise to permanently protect 217 acres as open space will have to be honored by the new owners.
Although Raymond completed the golf course, his other plans for the development didn't pan out as well. Twenty-four of the planned 30 single-family homes had been built as of last October, and 21 had been sold. But only a handful of the 50 to 60 townhouses allowed by permit were built, and construction never began on the flats and condos Raymond originally envisioned. Raymond also planned to renovate the historic Rice estate as an upscale in, but didn't get far.
"I personally feel the real estate market dragged this place down," Goich said.
The town has been counting on the housing construction at Turner Hill to bolster its coffers. The owner of a $1.5 million home pays nearly $14,000 a year in property taxes, and a $500,000 condo brings in $4,550.
A call to Raymond Properties Vice President Charlie Reed for information regarding the future of the housing development was not returned yesterday.
Talbot said club members hold no hard feelings for Raymond and hope that someday he'll be recognized for his legacy.
"Did he make mistakes? Sure he did," he said. "But he built a beautiful golf course. Somebody had to stand here and have that vision, and we look forward to finishing that."