Twenty-seven people wearing bright green shirts bearing the words “Save Our Greenspace” bustled around making one sale after another.
White wicker furniture was carried out. A pinball machine was loaded into a truck, and clothes, tools and toys dotted the lawn in the Crooked Creek neighborhood.
There was even a set of golf clubs leaning up against a table to be sold.
That is because the Crooked Creek golf course closed in July, and its owners hope to develop the property. Residents say they don’t know what will replace the amenity that brought them to the neighborhood in the first place.
“That’s the big question,” Monica Nawojczyk, a Crooked Creek resident, said. “It’s a big question mark, and we’re concerned because we have no input.”
About 90 Crooked Creek families have joined Friends of Crooked Creek in order to file suit against the golf course owners to try to stop the development.
On Saturday, the group held a yard sale, organized by resident Jeanne Lake, to raise money for legal fees. The group hoped to raise at least $2,000 by selling donations that had come in from around the neighborhood, Lake said.
“There’s a subgroup within the neighborhood that is kicking in money (for the lawsuit), but the neighborhood is pretty united about wanting to try to keep this green space,” Nawojczyk said.
Two years and counting
The Friends of Crooked Creek group has been fighting to keep the golf course for about two years. The group believes the owners don’t have a right to get rid of the golf course, which drew many homebuyers to pay a premium for houses there.
But course owners have said they were losing money and have a right to develop the land. Russell Killen, an attorney representing the owners, said his clients were losing $400,000 per year operating the golf course.
Residents said Saturday that they are concerned about worsening traffic conditions and an anticipated drop in home prices if new development replaces the golf course.
“We’re common people trying to have a big voice in how this town grows,” Nawojczyk said. “Infrastructure is not built to support more, so we want to make sure the town grows smart.”
The Friends of Crooked Creek filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in June – less than a month before the golf course was set to close – hoping to halt the closure. A Wake County Supreme Court judge denied the request, allowing the course to be shut down. The course closed three days later.
The lawsuit process has continued over the past nine months as the Friends of Crooked Creek has sought to halt plans to develop the property. A judge is expected to make a decision on the case within the next month. There may be appeals made after the ruling.
Nawojczyk would not disclose how much the lawsuit has cost the Friends of Crooked Creek.
Originally, Cary engineer Sam Ravenel, one of the course owners, said he and his business partner Tony Withers of Cary engineering firm Withers & Ravenel, planned to build homes on 90 to 100 acres of the golf course land and leave the rest as nature trails and open space.
But Killen said Saturday that “there really aren’t plans yet” and “everything is a possibility,” including commercial development. He said a portion of the property will be sold to the Wake County school system and a school could be built.
Ron Nawojczyk, president of the Crooked Creek Homeowners Association and Monica Nawojczyk’s husband, said the association had been trying to work with golf course owners for over a year to craft a suitable plan for everyone.
“Obviously, the people that are here would prefer a golf course, but if they can’t have a golf course, we’d at least like them to make sure that any development is in line with what’s already here. Unfortunately, the plans that they’ve put forth so far don’t meet that criteria.”
Killen said a development plan is not likely to be finalized until after the lawsuit is over.
“There may be movement on the project, but it doesn’t make sense to come up with something definitive until you kind of get that issue resolved,” he said. “We’d love to find a way to work something out with the homeowners where everyone can be happy with the development.”
Even selling the property as a golf course is still a possibility, he said, although unlikely.
“Golf has been declining in the United States for years and years and years,” Killen said. “There’s frankly not a demand for that.”
But Ron Nawojczyk disagreed, saying that lots of retirees are looking to move into a community with a golf course.
“There’s a lot of people that spent their life savings to move here, to retire here,” he said.
While a lengthy legal battle may discourage some, Monica Nawojczyk said the group has only gained momentum.
“We started out with four or five people,” she said. “It has grown. We’ve gotten strong and have more support from the community, as well as the town.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon