Wendell, N.C. — A proposed reservoir in northeast Wake County would increase Raleigh's water supply, but critics say the reservoir would threaten property values and future development.
The Little River Workgroup held a series of public meetings on a draft agreement that would restrict development near the site to protect the water supply from pollutants.
The group included Wake County, Raleigh, Rolesville, Wake Forest, Wendell and Zebulon, as well as the state Division of Water Quality, state Wildlife Resources Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The most controversial rezoning ordinances would limit how densely 3,700 property owners could develop their lands.
"We're not in America anymore," said Stuart Carrol, who owns 32 acres near the potential site. "The way I feel about it, it feels like a communist country; everybody telling you what you are going to do with your land; when, where and what."
Owners in the critical area – all land within half a mile and up to 300 feet above the reservoir – would be restricted to building one home per three acres. Those farther away in the Little River's watershed could have one home per acre.
Many property owners said their land will not be as worth as much with the tightened restrictions.
County leaders, however, contended that larger lots might be more valuable in the future.
"It does limit what you can do, but it increases property values in the future," Joseph Durham, deputy county manager, said. "It's not something that's an absolute, 100 percent given, but it has the potential to do that, based on what's happened here in Wake County and across the state of North Carolina."
County officials said that a new reservoir is desperately needed, with Falls Lake, Raleigh's primary water source, shrinking. The Blue Ribbon Commission on the Future of Wake County recommended speeding up the Little River Reservoir project.
When completed, the 1,100-acre reservoir could supply 17 million gallons a day and hold 3.5 billion gallons. Its dam would be 39 feet high. A water treatment plant would also be built.
Local officials began seeking permits for the project more than a year ago, and the process could take a decade. At the earliest, construction for the reservoir would begin in 2016 and be completed within 30 to 36 months.
Despite that lengthy process, Carrol said he has resigned himself to the rezoning proposals becoming fact.
"I don't like it, but there ain't nothing you can do about it," he said.