Wendell mega-development coming to life

jwhitfield@newsobserver.comMarch 25, 2014 

— Despite the cautions issued by Newland officials when they first purchased Wendell Falls that they would not enter into a lot of activity quickly, there is already a lot going on.

Newland officials won tentative approval from the town’s planning board last week to build an amenities site that will serve as the center of community activity once houses start going up.

Company officials say they hope to have something on the ground by August in time for builders to finish construction on a handful of model homes the company hopes will be open in time for an open house next February.

Last week’s planning board meeting was largely a formality. The company was asking for preliminary approval of a plan to construct a 7,000-square-foot clubouse on an 18-acre tract on the south side of Wendell Falls Parkway. The clubhouse will accompany a swimming pool and trails leading to a pond where developers will build a dock to provide fishing.

The company will also build a replica of an old tobacco barn within site of the clubhouse that site director Brad Rhinehalt said will include large doors that could open up to a stage, and lean-to’s that could shelter a farmer’s market or other weekend outdoor activities.

Planning board members expressed some concerns about the difficulty residents might experience getting from the parking lot to the swimming pool, but Rhinehalt pointed out that the front entrance to the building will actually be a second-story entrance and the building will also have an elevator to take visitors to the first floor which opens out at pool level.

He also told planning board members a terraced walkway around the building will make it easier to get to the pool area, which will be behind the building in relation to Wendell Falls Parkway.

Planning board members approved the plan along with a number of technical additions recommended by staff that detailed additional information staff wanted added to maps and added parking to provide for activities at the tobacco barn.

On tour

Last week’s approval by the planning board preceded a Friday afternoon tour of a portion of the property by Newland staff and several members of the planning board.

Planning board members visited the falls on the site which give the development it’s name. Hidden in some woods off Wendell Falls Parkway, not too far from the amenities center, rushing water makes a lot of noise as it drops about 20 feet over a sloping outcropping of natural rock. Developers say the area around the falls will remain park of the development’s natural area.

They also visited the amenities site that was the subject of last week’s meeting. That land sits on a rise, from which you can look through a stand of trees and see Lake Myra Elementary School to the south.

Finally, the group visited a 91-acre section of the property off Poole Road which includes a small, but picturesque, lake.

That section gave planning board members a glimpse of the kinds of questions developers say they still need to decide before they begin to complete their development plans.

Rhinehalt told the group the area could ultimately contain some of the development’s high-end homesites, or it could be home to some senior living neighborhoods within the development.

“It’ll be a while before we get to this area,” Rhinehalt said. “But those are the kinds of questions we’re still looking at.”

Whitfield: 919-829-4823; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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