Wendell is booming, town leaders see big jump in new single family home permits

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Thursday, July 11, 2024
Wendell town leaders work to address needs of booming growth
Wendell sees major jump in new single family home permits.

WENDELL, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Cheryl King sits on her front porch, she looks across the street and describes the views she once enjoyed.

"Beautiful woods," said King.

Today, that view is of an apartment complex under construction, with one, two, and three bedroom rentals available.

"I really, really miss the woods. I wish they had at least set it back further from the road. That would be nice. And maybe not have the AC units (in the back), because that's going to be very loud when it starts," said King.

She's already noticed the uptick in traffic, saying speeding is an issue past her home. Overall, King, who has lived in Wendell since 1979, acknowledged the positives of growth, namely new restaurants and businesses, though would like to see the pace slow down.

"I'd kind of like to see that fill up before we went any further would be my personal preference. But again, I do think the town's doing the best they can for the need that's here," said King.

"I'm all for growth. I just want growth done in the right way. And right now, at this point in our community, I think we need to slow down and I think we need to take infrastructure a little bit more seriously because we're having massive issues with that and we can't accommodate everything that's happening," said Regina Harmon, who owns the Wendell General Store on N Main Street.

In the 2023 fiscal year, the town issued 636 single family home permits. This fiscal year, it issued more than double that amount - 1,291 permits - while issuing slightly more permits for commercial, residential accessory, and trade projects.

"The projects currently under construction contain roughly 5,000 units that include multi-family, townhomes and single family residences that will be built over the next few years," wrote Town Planning Director Bryan Coates in an e-mail exchange with ABC 11.

"I wish the commissioners would be a little bit more conscientious instead of just saying yes to everything," said Harmon.

Coates discussed efforts to ensure roads and infrastructure are keeping up with population growth.

"The Town is implementing transportation improvements from the adopted Transportation and Pedestrian plans for all new developments. Currently the Town is designing road improvements at the intersections of Wendell Falls Parkway & Eagle Rock Road, Wendell Boulevard & Eagle Rock Road as well as Selma Road & Wendell Boulevard. All three intersections are NCDOT roadways that the Town of Wendell is taking the lead on improvements. Voters approved transportation bonds in the Fall of 2023 of $12 million," Coates wrote.

"Our schools are already so overpopulated right now. And all I keep thinking about is where are we going to put all these kids in the next year to come," said Harmon.

In February 2023, Wake County Public Schools voted to add magnet school programs at East Wake High and Wendell Middle. Eastern Wake County is set to get a new elementary school by 2029.

Coates said Wendell's population is set to top 31,000 people in 2030. According to the US Census, as of July 2023, the town's estimated population was 14,400.

"Considering we started basically at ground zero, had never owned a business, and then to see that we could have potentially all those new customers would be a dream come true," said Katie Carter, who co-owns Carter's Baking Company with her husband.

They opened the business on North Main Street in Wendell in 2020.

"There are a ton of new faces with all the growth, all the new houses, all the new developments. There are a lot of supportive people that keep coming back. We've had people who already have had their weddings, then their first baby showers and first birthdays. And so it's nice when people come back and keep using us as their go to for their cakes," said Carter.

She said the town has been accepting feedback from community members. Across the street, Harmon believes the town has made a concerted effort to support downtown businesses, namely though a series of festivals, concerts, and events to draw traffic. However, both owners believe one issue can be more adequately addressed.

"We do need more parking because we have several major businesses down here," said Harmon.

"Sometimes parking is an issue with small towns, but that's every small town. It was not built for all the cars that are on the road today. And so you might have to walk a little bit, but with our bakery, you can call us. We can run something out to you," said Carter.

The population growth has ushered in a slate of new businesses, namely restaurants and retailers, a change King appreciated amidst the town's transformation.

"There's a focus on engineering, a biotech. For instance, the new Wendell Commerce Center will have a lot of industrial space. Those are certainly target industries," said Roger Peterson, Executive Director of the Wendell Chamber of Commerce, who pointed to the new Wake Tech campus as a key resource in achieving those goals.

Peterson has been in the role for two years, though has seen rapid growth in just that time period.

"There are a lot of brand new businesses, some home based businesses. To give you a sense of scale, in 2023, we had 46 businesses join the Chamber of Commerce. In the first half of 2024, it's been more than 55. And if you like ribbon cutting, it's the same kind of metric. We did 11 (ribbon cutting events) last year. We did 16 in the first half of this year. So a lot of growth and it really is all across the board," said Peterson.

In January, WakeMed opened its new Wendell Healthplex, a 24,000 square foot facility which features 12-bed emergency department, as well as outpatient imaging services, including x-rays, CT scans, and ultrasound.

"EMS and Fire services are handled by Wake County. The Town annually updates a 10-year staffing analysis to plan for organization needs which includes the police department. Organization structure and services are reviewed annually as part of the Budget process. The Town has proactively secured land for a future police department site and increased equipment and training for the department in preparation for ongoing growth. Wendell is well positioned to maintain its reputation as a safe place to live and raise a family," Coates wrote regarding emergency services.

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