Development is coming. That’s the mantra in eastern Wake county, which has already seen years of a growing population in its towns as many first-time homebuyers are priced out of the market to the west.
The national collapse of the real estate bubble in 2008 muted that call for awhile, real estate agent Mike Wrenn with ERA Parrish Realty Legacy Group in Wendell said, but that’s changing.
“The market has picked up immensely in eastern Wake County just in the last 90 days,” Wrenn said. He’s getting multiple buyers interested in eastern Wake houses for sale within an hour of listing them now, something he was not experiencing in prior years.
Wrenn said he’s seen increased interest in eastern Wake homes from the $100,000 to $400,000 range, indicating that both first-time buyers and buyers looking to move up to a larger house are shopping.
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That future development, and development already under construction, pose challenges and opportunities for eastern Wake’s towns, and Knightdale, Zebulon and Wendell each face their own unique circumstances in the face of this expected growth.
Wrenn and eastern Wake leaders expect the transformation to hit Knightdale first, but Zebulon and Wendell will not be left out.
Knightdale and Wendell leaders are hoping to attract more commercial development, but in Zebulon, where the commercial side makes up 68 percent of the tax base, that is not as much of a concern.
“Most of the municipalities in Wake County,” Zebulon Planning Director Mark Hetrick said, “their values are differing from what we’re seeing in residential versus commercial taxes.”
And, Hetrick said, residential growth is coming along in Zebulon as well, with 326 lots added in fiscal year 2015-16.
Two subdivisions – Weaver’s Pond and Taryn Meadows – are in their second phase of construction, and Shepard’s Park is in its first phase. Together the three developments are driving the town’s residential growth, Hetrick said.
Room for improvement
Wrenn said that even though commercial development has outpaced residential in Zebulon, the town could still benefit from adding shopping centers, which have been slow to come to the town, but would likely be on the increase as the population grows.
“It’s going to take a little time, but it’s going to get there,” Wrenn said.
Knightdale Mayor James Roberson said his town has been preparing for years by making sure water and sewer infrastructure was in place to accommodate growth when it entered an agreement with Raleigh to provide those services in the town in 2006. The town is also fortunate to have roads such as Interstate 540 and the U.S. 264 bypass that link it more closely to Raleigh than Zebulon and Wendell, and have reduced traffic congestion in town, town leaders say.
With the town at about 65 percent residential tax base and 35 percent commercial, the town would like to shift that to about a 60-40 split, Roberson said, and he expects two industrial parks coming online – one on Hodge Road and one on Widewaters Parkway – to help in that effort.
“With the growth we have experienced,” Roberson said, “we’ve had a chance to look at our development and area, as a lot of communities have, and we saw an opportunity.”
He pointed to the completion of Knightdale Station Park near the center of town as a major driver for development and redevelopment in the Old Town district.
Roberson, who is a dean at Wake Technical Community College, also pointed to the educational options near Knightdale as a bonus for growth, and for the town’s current residents. “This is what makes a community, and that is part of our infrastructure,” he said.
Roberson and Hetrick said flatly that their towns are not considering issuing bonds in the near future to deal with growth, but Wendell Town Manager Teresa Piner said she expects bonds to be discussed in that town.
Wendell Planning Director David Bergmark said growth is not always positive. “You need to have the right kind of development,” he said. And town leaders want that to be more on the commercial side, which adds more to the tax base than residential development.
With construction of as many as 240 new homes expected in the upcoming fiscal year, the town is in a good position to switch gears, Bergmark said. “We don’t have as much need,” he said of residential growth, “so that allows you to pump on the brakes. ... So now we can concentrate on commercial development.”
Traffic will be a major concern as the town’s population grows, Bergmark said, and Wendell has already made sidewalks and pedestrian safety a priority. He pointed out that the town requires sidewalks and other frontage improvements during construction, which will lay the groundwork. The town staff’s initial budget request for sidewalk maintenance for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is $30,000, up from $5,000 budget for this fiscal year.
Wendell officials are also busy putting together a new transportation plan that will outline the town’s future road needs. Getting roads from a line on a map to asphalt on the ground is a long process, but town officials say agencies like DOT need to know what the town believes its major needs are. And creating a transportation plan also helps developers know where traffic will be years into the future.
Wrenn, who has been with Parrish for 20 years, said falling gas prices also have been a boon for the market here as commuters realize the ease of travel to Raleigh.
“People think it’s way out, but it’s really not,” Wrenn said. “We just feel like eastern Wake County has a lot to offer.”
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826