County to OK acquisition of future park site
County Commissioners signaled that they’ll join the City Council later this month in approving a $1.2 million deal that will give the two governments control of 134 acres of future parkland near Falls Lake.
But the county’s discussion of the proposal on Monday also saw two commissioners, Ellen Reckhow and Brenda Howerton, suggest they think their board isn’t getting enough credit for its role in the project.
The county will pledge $200,000 toward the acquisition later this month. The City Council has already voted on it, on Oct. 12 allotting a net $250,000 to the project.
Howerton said she finds it “perplexing” that the city got to make the first move given that “the county will be the major investor.”
Reckhow similarly questioned one detail of the acquisition, namely that the city will initially receive title to all 134 acres before handing all but 30 acres over to the county.
Neither Durham government, however, is supplying the largest piece of financing.
That comes from the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which in 2010 agreed to supply $500,000 to the project.
Its grant was to the nonprofit that’s put the deal together, the Trust for Public Land.
The trust holds an option to buy the property for $1.2 million from a Wake Forest developer, Southview Development LLC.
A $250,000 pledge from the city of Raleigh rounds out the financing.
The site is off Southview Road and N.C. 98, also known as Wake Forest Highway, in eastern Durham.
Trust for Public Land officials intend to put a conservation easement on 104 acres of the property and convey the easement to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for safe-keeping.
It then would grant the city a deed to the entire 134 acres. The city in turn would deed the 104 acres to the county.
The 30 acres remaining under city ownership would be land-banked as a future park site to include playing fields, parking lots and other facilities.
City and county officials acknowledged Monday that development of the park probably will wait a decade or so because the city’s Parks and Recreation Department doesn’t have enough money to launch a big new construction project.
Meanwhile, because of the conservation easement, the county’s portion will remain mostly as is, save for the addition of trails and other “low impact” amenities.
Officials from the four governments involved are supporting the project because of its potential water-quality benefits to Falls Lake, a regional reservoir that provides Raleigh’s drinking water.
Southview Development acquired the land in 2006 with the intention of flipping it to a residential developer.
But those plans fell though after the recession, and it’s now willing to part with the land at a discount so it can claim what County Engineer Glen Whisler and Open Space and Real Estate Manager Jane Korest termed “state and federal tax benefits.”
The site is additionally attractive to Durham governments because the eastern portion of the county figures to accommodate most of the growth that will occur here in the next decade or so.
County Commissioner Wendy Jacobs called the project “a total win-win” for the county and pointedly refused to join her colleagues in grumping about credit.
“It’s very hard to create a partnership like this,” she said. “I’m just grateful for this opportunity to do so many good things at once.”