Volume 16, Number 7
During the Wake Forest Town Board’s annual planning retreat Friday at the Alston-Massenburg Center, Town Manager Kip Padgett started by unveiling the new population number of 43,076 residents at the end of 2017. In 2025 the town estimates it will have 55,702 residents.
That rapid growth combined with a shrinking amount of available land for homes, businesses, parks, schools and factories means, as Commissioner Brian Pate said during the long discussion about impact fees: “Land is the scarce commodity now.”
He challenged the figure of $25,000 per acre for park land which Nilgun Kamp with Tindale-Oliver, the firm doing an impact fee update study for the parks and recreation department, used in their calculations. “We’re almost ten times that now. Your cost of $25,000 gives me heartburn. It is no where close,” Pate, a realtor said. He said he knows of developers paying $600,000 and $700,000 for an acre.
Kamp countered by saying they are using a value based on what the [Wake County} revenue department has set and, she said, the value of an acre drops as you have larger parcels. Padgett said the park land the town has acquired recently has been discounted by the seller. Much of the recent purchases have been for greenways and trails.
The town began charging a parks and recreation impact fee in 1997 on all new construction to help offset the costs of buying land and building structures or fields. Mayor Vivian Jones noted that the cost of building a community center in E. Carroll Joyner Park “has increased and increased [even though] we’ve given up a basketball court.” The current town update sets the cost at $11.1 million but on Friday JJ Carr, head of the inspections department, said the cost is now $13.5 million.
A comparison of the fees showed Wake Forest “substantially less than Rolesville, somewhat less than Raleigh,” Padgett said. The town’s fee was set at 40 percent of the amount possible by a study in 2003. Director of Community Development Chip Russell said that percentage “was the standard early on. This was never meant to replace tax monies.”
The Tindale-Oliver study showed the town could charge $4,311 for single-family homes, $2,572 for units in multi-family dwellings. In 2003 the study indicated the town could charge $2,716 for single-family and $2,363 for multi-family but the town board then set the fees at $1,086 and $945, or 40 percent. Raleigh now charges $1,385 and $1,031 and Rolesville charges $3,200 for all residential units.
The commissioners will consider the study’s results and adopt new parks and recreation impact fees in the next few months.
At the same time as the impact fee study, Director Ruben Wall’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources Department hired the firm of Ballard-King to look at the fees it charges for participation in sports, swimming, arts and crafts and all its other programs. The somewhat mournful explanation for the study is that there is no formal fee policy in place, no process for establishing fees, no fully loaded costs for programs and – very importantly – a fee policy is needed for the accreditation by the National Recreation and Park Association which the department is seeking.
Jeff King with Ballard-King praised the department for seeking accreditation. “It’s a pretty lofty goal, the gold standard.” He also praised the town for holding retreats and providing orientation for the new commissioners, Liz Simpers and Bridget Wall-Lennon.
King said the town should see an increase in population and in all age groups except for the 25-44 year range and under 9 years. There will be a faster rate of growth in the senior age categories. The median household income is 28 percent higher than the national level and the spending index for housing is 11 percent high, all of which can impact the need for recreation. Also, there is significant diversity in the community.
King used a pyramid to sort the department’s programs by the number of people served with community programs such as the Easter Egg Hunt, Six Sundays in Spring, and programs at the Renaissance Centre on the bottom. At the top were enhanced and specialized events and classes. As the number of people served went down the cost to participate should go up, King said. And he also urged a scholarship program for children and adults who want to be involved in a program but cannot afford it. He has a worksheet which will help the department set fees.
King also talked about the Renaissance Centre where, he said, there was no business plan when it was purchased because it became available. He warned the town should not expect the center to produce a cash flow. “Just look at Garner and Holly Springs. They are experiencing the same thing.”
Again the commissioners must decide on how much they want to recover from the center when setting fees and come to a consensus about its operation.
Immediately after talk about fees, Wall began a presentation about the status of the Holding Park Aquatic Center. Wall-Lennon, who had voted for the name after arguing against it, said she “would really support having an aquatic center . . . think of an enclosed facility open year round.” (There was an aquatic center on the wish list for the Capital Improvement Plan several years ago but it has disappeared. Someone Friday said it would cost at least $25 million. “That’s a lot of bake sales.”)
“Some extreme cold weather” has hampered the construction, Wall said. “They were trying to get the walls poured and can’t do it.” But “March 15 is the day when things can really take off” and he is anticipating the pool complex can open for Memorial Day weekend.
This week Wall will review bids and proposals to manage the complex, hire the staff and provide all the programs. It will be less costly, he said, than the town doing all that.
Wall segued smoothly from water to fireworks. The stadium show and fireworks display on July 3 will be held at Heritage High School this year with free admission. After bids were opened in the fall, the town selected Bay Fireworks Inc. as the fireworks contractor.
“The show will include those high aerials. You’ll have to look more up than across,” Pate said, adding that those rockets and displays could not be used in the Wake Forest High School stadium because of the homes behind the stadium.
Heritage is also better for site security, Wall said he had been told by the police department. People will be able to view the fireworks from the surrounding ball fields in addition to those in the stadium.
Anna Bolton, the marketing and business relations specialist in the communications and public affairs department, has found enough donations and sponsors to cover all the costs, Wall said. That brought a round of applause. The presenting sponsor is PowerSecure.
It also brought a sharp complaint from Mayor Vivian Jones: [The school system] charges us ridiculous amounts. We should not have to go through calling the superintendent” for permission for events. “We built those fields and take care of them,” she said, saying the town should get some relief from the fees charged by Wake County schools. The tennis courts and one or two ball fields were built and are maintained by the town which can use them for town programs outside of school hours, all through a joint agreement between the town and the school system.
Along with the other projects, Wall has been investigating a bike share program that could be town-wide. He said there is no upfront cost.