Wake County leaders disagree on whether to spend millions of dollars to turn an old golf course into a park, especially since the county already has $2 million set aside for a separate park project five miles away.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners might buy the former Crooked Creek Golf Course off of U.S. 401 in southern Wake County. The 143-acre course near Fuquay-Varina closed in 2015.
Residents in the area want the county to build a park, but some commissioners say they’re not sure they should spend taxpayer money for the project, considering the board declined to give the school system all the money it requested.
“Wake has critical and immediate needs that I see as community priorities: properly funding our schools; providing for public health, safety and essential infrastructure; improving affordable workforce housing inventory, etc.,” Commissioner Greg Ford said in a text message.
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The county plans to build a park off of N.C. 42 east of Fuquay-Varina. Wake has already acquired 258 acres and has an opportunity to buy an additional 42 acres for $656,000.
But Commissioner Matt Calabria, who represents southeastern Wake, said the fast-growing area needs more than one public park. The county wouldn’t necessarily have to spend money on the Crooked Creek site right away.
“If this were just about buying a golf course that went under, none of us would support it,” he said. “This is about leveraging a lot of resources from other places to do something good for the county. The stars have really aligned on this project.”
C.C. Partners, a group of investors that owns the golf course, hoped to build homes on site after Crooked Creek closed in 2015. Neighbors sued, and although a judge sided with the owners, C.C. Partners appears to have ditched those plans.
Now the group might sell the property to The Conservation Fund for $3.95 million. As a nonprofit that aims to preserve land throughout the country, The Conservation Fund would then sell the site to Wake.
The county could spend between $4.8 million and $15.3 million to develop a park, along with roughly $172,000 for a one-time start-up cost and $383,000 on annual operations.
A previous deadline to gauge Wake leaders’ interest was set for July 28, but it was extended to Sept. 30.
The Board of Commissioners is set to discuss the site at its Aug. 14 meeting.
“This is a work in progress, and there are quite a few different moving parts in this transaction,” said David Proper, an urban program director with The Conservation Fund. “Our goal right now is to help the county craft the funding structure for the acquisition of the property.”
But it’s still unclear if the project will move forward. Proper declined to say how The Conservation Fund would proceed if Wake doesn’t buy the site.
The golf course’s topography varies from mostly flat to large hills and steep valleys. Its natural features could offer a great environment for a park and trails, said Sig Hutchinson, chairman of the commissioners.
“I was suspicious of this up front, but I have been completely changed over my interaction with the public to realize this as a future green space,” Hutchinson said. “I think it’s an incredible opportunity.”
Calabria said part of the Crooked Creek site could also be used for an elementary school or to connect to 60 acres of land the Triangle Greenways Council owns to the north of the course.
To defray the eventual cost, Calabria said, the county could sell “conservation credits” to give another entity the chance to help preserve the land. Or it could partner with the town of Fuquay-Varina to build soccer fields.