An old golf course that many people hope will become a park could also serve as a site for affordable housing, Wake County leaders said this week.
More than 200 people, many wearing green T-shirts and waving signs, went to a Wake County commissioners’ meeting Monday to lobby for a new park at the closed Crooked Creek Golf Club near Fuquay-Varina. Neighbors have said for years the 164-acre site would be ideal for a county park.
Commissioners on Monday seemed interested in buying the golf course off of U.S. 401, but some said the site could be used for more than recreation. Wake leaders have been pushing for more affordable housing throughout the county.
“We have things that we want and things that are desirable, and then there are things that we actually need,” Commissioner Jessica Holmes said. “In this instance, we need affordable housing.”
Ron Nawojczyk, president of the Crooked Creek Homeowners Association, said the group’s covenants may not allow affordable housing to be built there. Commissioners asked county staff to look into it.
“Further clarification of what we can and can’t do with that property is going to be very important to me,” Holmes said.
Commissioners have expressed concerns about spending taxpayer money on the park when there are other needs, including schools.
“As we grow, we want to get better, not just bigger,” Commissioner Erv Portman said. “That means we need to protect the natural beauty. But at the same time, we also have to do schools, mental health, other things.”
Part of the Crooked Creek site could be used for an elementary school. It’s also possible a nonproft like 3 Irish Jewels Farm, an agricultural community for adults on the autism spectrum, could use part of the site.
Or it could connect to 80 acres the Triangle Greenways Council owns to the north of the golf course. The council plans to donate that land to the project if Wake buys the Crooked Creek property.
C.C. Partners, a group of investors that owns the golf course, previously hoped to build homes on the 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 group must close on the property Sept. 28 or request an extension, said Justin Boner, the fund’s N.C. director of conservation acquisition. If the county decides to buy the site, it could choose a phased transition or a single purchase within the next three to five years.
Many people say fast-growing southern Wake County needs a park. Nawojczyk said more than 12,000 new homes were planned to be built in the next year in Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs.
“That doesn’t even count Cary and Raleigh and Garner and Willow Spring,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be really nice to put a park right in between all that?”
Nawojczyk said the golf course already had fields, 4.5 miles of paved trails, restroom facilities and a clubhouse.
“Very little actually has to be done here to make this thing into a park,” he said.
Wake could spend between $8.2 million and $15.3 million on property.
The county might have to extend water and sewer lines to the site and widen Hilltop Needmore Road to four lanes with a median, which would add to the cost, said Frank Cope, Wake County community services director.
Commissioner Matt Calabria encouraged the commissioners to move forward with buying the property so it could set up a deal to pay over several years, possibly with the help of grants.
“I think we’ve identified a lot of uncertainties,” Calabria said. “I think it’s not a list of obstacles. I think it’s a list of to-dos. I think we are very clear about what we’d like to have more information on.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-829-4845: @KTrogdon