The Morrisville Town Council took preliminary steps Tuesday toward resolving a misunderstanding between the town and the developer of the Western Wake Competition Center.
The council directed town staff at a work session to pursue a development agreement with developer Jeff Ammons, which would add specificity to a partnership resolution passed by the council in 2013. That document said the town would “develop the infrastructure” for the facility, a phrase that created a miscommunication between the town and Ammons. The new development agreement will spell out how much Ammons will be expected to contribute to specific infrastructure improvements.
Discussion Tuesday proceeded amicably, with Ammons, Town Manager Martha Paige, and the council members sitting down for a work session to discuss the expectations communicated by the planning staff’s comments on Ammons’ plans.
The $14 million athletic facility, to be built on 30 acres between Aviation Parkway and Airport Boulevard, will include two ice rinks, multiple soccer fields and a gymnastics facility, among other things.
The project received a $3 million tourism grant from Wake County in February 2014. Construction is expected to begin early next year, but it is unlikely the facility will be ready to open by February 2018, the deadline imposed by the terms of the grant agreement. Ammons said Tuesday he is confident that timeline is negotiable, provided the center is well under way by its 2018 deadline.
Ammons submitted a site plan and construction drawings to the town earlier this year. Town staff reviewed those documents and returned them to Ammons with comments. Those comments, though, indicated that the town expected Ammons to pay more than $2 million, the bulk of that toward the construction of a new east-west connector road between Aviation Parkway and Airport Boulevard – not the infrastructural savings Ammons said he expected when he agreed to the partnership.
“It’s not like I’m not going to do anything,” Ammons said. “But seeing we’d have to pay for half the road threw our budgets way out of whack.”
The town’s understanding of its infrastructural contribution is that Ammons would benefit from its decision to extend McCrimmon Parkway, a road critical for access to the land Ammons purchased for the facility, but that he would still contribute. Ammons has since purchased another piece of land that allows for a temporary driveway from an existing road, but the long-term plan remains to place the primary entrance to the center along McCrimmon Parkway.
From the town’s perspective, Paige said, the partnership didn’t include the waiver of any typical development requirements, which often ask developers to pay for nearby road improvements to offset the traffic impact of their projects or complete those improvements themselves. The town’s decision to build the road in the first place was considered to be more or less the extent of Morrisville’s involvement in the partnership.
In addition to the connector road dispute, negotiations are complicated by the difficulty of projecting Ammons’ roadwork responsibilities given the mitigating effects of the McCrimmon Parkway extension.
“Typically traffic is much worse after the building’s done, but in this case, it’s exactly the opposite, because we’re building McCrimmon to take care of that,” Paige said. “Some of the improvements we need now, based on this modeling are not necessary in the future. That’s where the timing difference between the road being built and Jeff’s property comes into play.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan