Local Politics

Commissioners, residents trade barbs over proposed sale of Wake park land

Posted January 16, 2019 12:58 p.m. EST

— A week after Wake County commissioners narrowly approved a plan to sell a former golf course near Fuquay-Varina instead of turning it into a park, commissioners and residents continue to trade jabs over the move.

The Board of Commissioners last summer approved the purchase of most of Crooked Creek Golf Course, which closed in 2015, for $4 million. The 143-acre site off Hilltop Needmore Road west of U.S. Highway 401 was targeted as a potential park in southern Wake County.

But two of the commissioners who backed the purchase and the park plan were defeated in the Democratic primary last spring by candidates who called the purchase a bailout of a failed golf course and said the county should instead be investing its resources in public schools.

One of those new commissioners, Vickie Adamson, joined commissioners Jessica Holmes and Greg Ford, who previously voted against the purchase, as well as Commissioner James West in last week's 4-3 vote to declare the site as surplus county property and begin the process of selling it.

The vote came after hours of public comment from dozens of residents who live near the Crooked Creek site and wanted the county to keep the property.

Since the vote, park supporters have rallied on social media, prompting Holmes, Ford, West and Adamson to issue a 13-page statement on Tuesday to justify their decision.

"The county’s contested purchase of the former Crooked Creek Golf Course opened serious questions about broader community’s expectations of the county’s role when other landholders and private property owners may insist that the county again use taxpayer dollars to buy and develop their unprofitable, bankrupt, folded or abandoned properties under the umbrella of 'preserving open space' or creating 'A Park for Everyone!' – as is the case with Crooked Creek," the statement said.

They pointed out that county staff were against the purchase from the start and that the county paid almost market price for the property and would have to invest another $18 million to develop the site.

They also noted that the county is already developing a 300-acre park off N.C. Highway 42 in southeastern Wake County, and they have accelerated the project so it can open in two to three years.

"We have taken responsibility for correcting a poor decision and remain committed to working on a solution that better serves the needs of all of Wake County citizens. But we are saddened that some of our current and former colleagues have chosen to be so deeply involved with fueling discord and attacks on our character in the news media and on social media," the commissioners said in the statement.

Crooked Creek supporters responded Wednesday with a statement of their own, saying the commissioners were "doubling down on their horrible decision" by rehashing old arguments.

"No matter how much fear, uncertainty, and doubt they try to throw out to the public on this, the bottom line is they just voted to sell park land for the first time in Wake County's history and in an area of the county where it is needed most. If they are righteous and justified in taking this action, why did they rush the process in a three-week period during the busy holiday season?" a group called South Wake Park Project said in a statement.

The commissioners are merely "trying to save face" in the wake of public backlash over the vote to sell the Crooked Creek land, South Wake Park Project said.

"No matter how they try to spin or justify their action, the bottom line is that they are ignoring the will of the people," the group said. "This is a very sad representation of democracy. Truth be told, this is really about politics, not a park, and the real victims of this travesty are the citizens of Wake County who engaged in and trusted their local government just to have the rug pulled out from under them."