Supporters of turning the former Crooked Creek Golf Course into a county park packed a Wake County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday.
The crowd of about three hundred left with a mix of assurances of support from some members and continued questions from others.
The work session produced a request to Frank Cope, Wake County community services director, to return to commissioners in September with more information about several aspects of the deal, along with a recommendation on how to proceed.
Ron Nawojczyk, a chief proponent of putting a park on the closed golf course in Fuquay-Varina, made a detailed presentation of its potential benefits. Those included the preservation of open space in rapidly growing southwestern Wake County, the contribution to residents’ health, and the creation of a place for family activities.
“There’s a big space here and we have an excellent opportunity to put a park there,” Nawojczyk said. “Having a place to go is a wonderful thing.”
The audience applauded as board chairman Sig Hutchinson and Commissioner Matt Calabria offered support for the concept and a view of questions about the proposed park as a “to-do” list instead of obstacles.
“The support clearly is here,” Hutchinson said. “The picture has been painted. It now is time to make it a reality.”
Cope gave a presentation that included an estimated cost of $15.3 million for a full build-out of the park at the level of other Wake County facilities. (An earlier email to the board listed a purchase price of $4 million on a line immediately above a “development cost” of $15.3 million, leading to a mistaken figure of nearly $20 million in an earlier INDY story. Cope said Monday the $15.3 figure includes the $4 million purchase cost.)
The options presented Monday included a “minimal” build with fewer amenities that would cost $8.8 million. Neither price included water and sewer costs or road improvements potentially required by Fuquay-Varina town government. Commissioner Jessica Holmes wanted to know if Fuquay-Varina would take on any of the park’s cost.
“In staff’s conversations with the town of Fuquay, they have expressed no interest in being involved financially,” Cope said.
Cope noted that development of a full Wake County park proposal is typically a six- to nine-month process that wouldn’t be possible under a Sept. 28 deadline from the Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that has agreed to advance the purchase price to Wake County.
Other steps in the process include the hiring of a consultant at fifty thousand to seventy-five thousand dollars, opportunities for public comment and the presentation of a plan and cost estimate to the Board of Commissioners.
“Obviously the process has not been gone through in this case,” Cope said.
Ron Nawojczyk’s presentation included an estimate that the park could be established with expenses of $240,000. Commissioner Erv Portman asked parks staff to determine why there was such as wide discrepancy between the park proponents’ estimate and the staff figure.
“In order for this to be a county park, you have to have a certain level of amenities to draw people from beyond the immediate area,” Cope said.
In addition, commissioners wanted a fuller explanation of a restrictive covenant that applies to properties proposed for park land. Part of the original agreement for the development surrounding the golf course, the covenant basically prohibits construction of houses smaller than the existing homes.
“Further clarification on what we can and cannot do with that property is going to be very important to me,” said Holmes, who had advocated for using part of the property for affordable housing.
Commissioners also asked whether the nonprofit Conservation Fund might extend the deadline on its offer to purchase the former golf course for eventual sale to Wake County.
Fuqua-Varina resident Lisa Perez came to downtown Raleigh for the meeting, more than two hours of which was devoted to the proposed park.
“I think it went very well,” Perez said after the discussion. “I think it opened up the commissioners’ eyes.”