A former golf course that has pitted neighbors against a developer for years could become Wake County’s newest park.
Some neighbors of Crooked Creek Golf Course in Fuquay-Varina want the county to buy about 140 acres of the 160-acre property for recreation space. The cart paths could link with a planned greenway slated for the area, and the clubhouse could become a new community center.
“We’re trying to show Wake County that there’s a big gap down here as far as parks go,” said Ron Nawojczyk, president of the Crooked Creek Homeowners Association and leader of the South Wake Park Project. “There are nine parks in the county and none down in the Fuquay-Varina or Garner area. ... We want to gather some public support and make some noise so they notice us down here.”
Supporters of the plan will host a walk-a-thon Saturday to encourage the county to get on board by the end of July.
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The deadline is important because a contract with C.C. Partners, which owns the golf course, gives the national environmental nonprofit Conservation Fund until July 28 to buy the property. Before it makes the purchase, The Conservation Fund wants the county to show interest in buying the land within the next few years.
Crooked Creek closed in 2015 when the owners said it wasn’t profitable and they wanted to build new homes on the property. But residents who wanted the golf course to stay open sued the owners and accused them of mismanagement.
A Superior Court judge ruled last summer in favor of the owners, but the residents appealed. Oral arguments in that case were heard Monday in the N.C. Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel will make a ruling.
Last year, C.C. Partners backed away from its plan to build homes and instead signed a letter of intent with The Conservation Fund to turn part of the land into a park.
It’s unclear how much it would cost Wake to buy the property from The Conservation Fund. The county is already considering purchasing 21 acres of the property to build a new elementary school.
“We haven’t made the terms and conditions of the contract public, but I’ll tell you the property has been offered to us at a very reasonable price,” said David Proper, urban program director with The Conservation Fund. “It provides the county with an excellent opportunity.”
Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria, who supports the plan, said county staff are reviewing the proposal.
Obviously we have to be very careful with taxpayer dollars and making sure they go to their highest and best use.
Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria
“There’s not a lot of money readily available for this, which is what makes The Conservation Fund component so important,” Calabria said. “In that sense, the stars are aligning. But this is something that is going to require a lot of work. Obviously we have to be very careful with taxpayer dollars and making sure they go to their highest and best use.”
A lawyer representing a group of residents in the lawsuit said his clients are focused on ensuring the land will be operated as a golf course. They say the neighborhood’s 1993 covenant guarantees a golf course, but that a park would be better than new homes.
“We’re asking the court to recognize a golf course restriction,” attorney Matt Quinn said. “If we prevail in this lawsuit and the restriction is recognized, that’s what the property is going to be used for.”
Sam Ravenel of C.C. Partners said in an email that the sales to the The Conservation Fund for the park and to Wake County for the school site are contingent on the lawsuit being dismissed “either voluntarily or through the courts.”
“The Conservation Fund has provided a compelling case for a regional park at this location, and we have offered the property at a discount in support of their efforts,” Ravenel wrote.
“While we continue to support (them) in their effort to create a regional park, we are prepared to move on if the park does not gain the support necessary for the sale,” he added.
Jeanne Lake, a Crooked Creek resident who supports the park plan, said the appeal has kept pressure on the property owners, regardless of how it’s decided.
“I believe they want the appeal over with and to just move on,” Lake said. “(C.C. Partners) actually have been working very nicely with us to make this happen.”
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan