A presentation from the developers of Veridea, a 1,000-acre mixed-use development planned for southwest Apex, yielded a tentative agreement from the town’s planning committee to put the proposed wastewater infrastructure plan before the full town council.
Hudson Realty Group, the New York-based firm attempting to bring the sustainable development to fruition, made a similar presentation in June, and asked for a maximum investment of about $27.5 million to fund the pump station and wastewater lines necessary for Veridea to proceed.
On Aug. 31, their presentation asked for the same amount but was recast, based on recommendations from town officials and planning staff, to protect the town from severe financial consequences if the project doesn’t materialize.
Hudson representatives said their firm is willing to put up as collateral land equal to 150 percent of the loan amount so the town can recoup its costs if Hudson fails to complete the wastewater line within 10 years of the agreement. That would allow the town to begin working to install that infrastructure itself, but on Hudson’s dime.
Pending review by the town’s finance experts and legal counsel, Mayor Lance Olive and Councilman Bill Jensen gave that condition their tentative blessing.
But Jensen also took the opportunity to repeat some of his long-held concerns about whether Hudson can guarantee the mixed-use project will attract office tenants, which Jensen has said are a priority for keeping Apex from becoming a bedroom community for its office-rich neighbors.
For Town Manager Drew Havens, though, the wastewater agreement was a more immediate priority, given its potential to open up an additional 1,200 acres of land for development.
“None of that makes a darn bit of difference unless you can push the lever on the commode and have it go somewhere,” Havens said. “What we’re trying to do is get to a place where can we partner in that solution without exposing the ratepayer or the taxpayers to risk.”
The proposal, once vetted by Apex’s professional staff, will go before the Town Council on Sept. 20, Olive said. An affirmative vote from the council would send the proposal to the planning board and then back to the Town Council for a final vote in October.
Apex’s investment in the area’s sewer infrastructure would occur in two stages. The town would first help fund a pump station and temporary sewer line to pump waste north and east during the development’s residential buildout and then build a longer, permanent line west to the new wastewater treatment plan in New Hill once Veridea’s primarily commercial western half is ready for construction.
The committee’s willingness to put the plan to a vote was welcomed by Hudson representatives, who have made clear their desire to begin work as soon as possible while interest rates are low and the real estate market is doing well. According to the presentation documents, Hudson is hoping to have an agreement finalized by November.
“We’d like to move this along to the extent that we can, with all due respect,” said Joe Morningstar, Hudson’s director of asset management. “We’d love to hear your thoughts on it, because we’re anxious to get this moving.”
Olive said there has been no formal progress, however, with respect to an effort by Hudson to address another political obstacle. The firm is in informal talks with the town about how it might remove Tom Hendrickson, who first conceived of Veridea, as the project’s “responsible person.” Under the terms of the sustainable development agreement Hudson has with the town, Hendrickson has to sign off on any significant changes to the development plan.
Hudson, now at odds with Hendrickson over the direction of the project, has said that provision has allowed Hendrickson to hold the development hostage in violation of the developer’s property rights. Morningstar addressed that briefly at Wednesday’s meeting.
“We’re asking for one thing that’s very specific, and that’s property rights,” Morningstar said. “We have no intention of gutting the plan – nothing’s changed.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan