Editorial: Land deal good news for Wendell

October 16, 2013 

When commissioner Sam Laughery asked to add an item to last Monday night’s meeting agenda, you could almost hear the collective sigh of relief coming from the group sitting behind the dais.

He was asking to have the town board consider action that would help clear the way for the sale of the Wendell Falls subdivision from Redus – the real estate arm of Wachovia Bank – to Newland Communities.

The mega-subdivision has sat largely abandoned for the past 4 1/2 years in the wake of the 2008 recession that stifled most of the development industry.

And while the deal has not yet closed, it seems likely a deep-pocketed buyer has appeared on the doorstep. Based on the quality of work we’ve seen from Newland in other communities, we believe they will honor the kind of growth Wendell Falls’ former developers envisioned.

As the deal moves forward, if Newland is able to close, Wendell officials will likely be revisiting at least some of the terms they came to with the previous developers in a bid by the new owners to shape the development in some way that fits what they want to do.

Company officials have said they want to be responsive to the market. Other Wendell developers – most notably former Mayor Lucius Jones – that the Wendell market for large, upscale housing just doesn’t exist.

Newland isn’t likely to want to build small houses that would be picked up as rental investments. But if they are truly responsive to the market, it’s possible that they may wish to scale down the price points of their products.

Town officials should be careful about this. There’s no sense in the town being obstinate about making changes. But the town should, as Town Manager Teresa Piner suggested, be patient in waiting for the right kinds of changes to ensure the Wendell Falls development is the successful project everyone hopes it can be.

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