KNIGHTDALE — It's been a big year for Knightdale.
The town made major moves in development, as part of an ongoing effort to become an attractive suburb of Raleigh.
A 70-acre park, a planned multi-use, 835-home subdivision (one of the biggest in Wake County) and renovations of the downtown area have Knightdale ready to grow even more in 2014.
The first homes in the subdivision – named Knightdale Station, after the park – are set to start going up in March. The Mingo Creek Greenway, which connects to Raleigh's greenway system, will be completed by the early spring.
But it hasn't only been about physical growth.
As an answer to years-old concerns about the quality of Knightdale-area schools, the county decided to collaborate with the community to come up with solutions in the Knightdale Area Education Work Group.
And with growth comes more crime, a reality that the town became very familiar with in the late part of the year.
Here is a look back on some of the major events of 2013 in Knightdale:
The opening of Knightdale Station Park: The opening of Phase One of the town’s 70-acre park in September was the culimination of years’ worth of planning. The town increased property tax by 2 cents to help finance the park, which features a playground, walking trails, two dog parks (one for small dogs and another for large dogs), shelters and more amenities to come. The park, when completed, will have multipurpose athletic fields, more shelters, an entertainment amphitheater, tennis courts and a skate park. Town officials have called the park a destination and one of the big draws of the town.
Knightdale Area Education Workgroup: After an independent audit validated what Knightdale parents and education activists have been saying for years, Wake County school officials started the process of helping Knightdale schools this year with a task force of over 30 community members. The group met five times to identify and make recommendations for the town’s schools to present to the Wake County Board of Education in early 2014. They’ve looked at student assignment, student achievement, magnet options and the distribution of county resources.
Two murders within a month: With no murders since the 2010 murder of Kenneth Ring, two homicides within a month’s time was, at the very least, unexpected in Knightdale. The first homicide, reported on Oct. 12, involved 55-year-old Seanne Winters Barnette who was found stabbed over 50 times and draped with an American flag in her Legacy Oaks home. Police eventually charged her 70-year-old brother, John Wesley Winters, Jr. with the murder. The case is ongoing.
Less than a month later, on Halloween, police responded to its first murder-suicide were Yul Brynner Barber and Veronica Sutton-Wheeler, both 49, were found dead. Barber apparently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Ethics questions: Before winning reelection to Knightdale’s Town Council, councilor Mike Chalk had to reassure the town he had its best interests at heart. Chalk was listed as a contact person for Carolina Landscape Services, the company that has done maintenance work on the town’s medians since 2006. Chalk’s son, Kyle, also works for the company. Chalk told Eastern Wake News he does offer financial support and provided personal checks dating back to May 12, 2012 that showed he paid for maintenance on some of the company’s vehicles. It also showed the company was repaying Chalk and the councilor said the company still owed him about $3,400 in September. No action was taken against Chalk; the payments do not violate the town’s Code of Ethics and Carolina Landscape Services did go through the appropriate bids process with the town to win the contract.
Knightdale Station moves forward: To compliment the town’s new park, Cary-based development company Preston Development will be constructing a multi-phase, multi-use subdivision just north of the park. With plans for 835 homes, a YMCA, retail space and a branch of the private charter school Thales Academy, it will be the largest subdivision in Knightdale and one of the largest in Wake County. The first homes should start going up in March 2014 and by Memorial Day 2015, a community pool should be complete.
Town Council says goodbye: After 14 years of service to the town, councilors Tim Poirier and Jeff Eddins finished their last terms in 2013. Poirier celebrated his first retirement from Town Council in 2012 but returned shortly after to replace Terry Gleason, who resigned during his term. Eddins served his 14 years consecutively. Poirier said he would not seek reelection after finishing Gleason’s term and Eddins announced in June he would not seek reelection so he could spend more time with his family. Mark Swan and Randy Young took their seats on the council.
Reopening First Avenue: A year and $864,000 later, First Avenue, the main road running through Knightdale’s Old Town district, was completed and reopened in April. the project widened the road and sidewalks, added parallel parking and updated the infrastructure of the street. The project was completed in anticipation of Knightdale Station Park’s beginning phases. The town hopes the renovations and park will draw more businesses to the area.
Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews