Boomtowns: As Wendell shows no signs of slowing down, public hearing set for new development

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Monday, June 12, 2023
Boomtowns: Wendell shows no signs of slowing, new development in works
For a town whose motto is "Small Town, Big Charm," there is some hesitancy over even more building.

WENDELL, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Bradley Congleton looks around the town he grew up in, it's easy to see the differences.

"(Growing up), my friends and I used to ride four-wheelers, ATV all throughout this area," said Congleton, referring to Wendell Falls.

The major development project already includes 1,500 homeowners and has brought in a number of businesses, including Publix.

"When you see places like a Publix coming in, those places do their research. They know what's going on. And they don't just throw out a grocery store on a whim," said David Schearer, owner of Farmers & Merchants in downtown Wendell.

According to the 2010 census, Wendell's population was fewer than 6,000 people. Census estimates for 2022 peg it close to 12,500, as more construction is underway.

"I do think people are coming out here getting a step ahead knowing that the next five or 10 years ... What's this going to bring to your property value? So jump ahead and hopefully hold it all in and see what happens," said Congleton, who is now a real estate agent with WHY Realty Group.

READ MORE: Other Boomtowns across the Triangle and nearby communities

The population boom has helped businesses downtown, which have largely credited town officials for their work in maintaining the growth.

"We love the fact that we see people walking down the streets all day long, usually eating ice cream, walking their dogs. So it's a really good community feel," said Amy Turner, a co-owner of Simply Blush Bridal.

"Our only issue is having enough parking to keep up with the traffic that (the businesses) bring into the town," added co-owner Tracy Alford.

"You see new faces all the time. Lot of people moving from different areas. Lot of people actually moving out from Raleigh to the outskirts a little bit," Schearer said.

Next year will mark 30 years in business for Larry Harvey, who owns Larry's Tailor Shop on South Main Street. Like Schearer, he's seen new customers coming in.

"From my standpoint, everything is being addressed appropriately. We can't get beyond ourselves. The town can't get beyond itself. They're trying to draw as much as they can in and trying to keep up with development of the new population," said Harvey.

With a larger population base, lifelong residents such as Teresa Lee say it's easier to stay in town to shop and get what she needs.

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"I'm glad to have it here in this small town so I don't have to go to Raleigh. It's good to be right here at home," said Lee.

As part of its Economic Strategic Development Plan, the town is targeting industries including advanced manufacturing, life sciences, IT & technology, clean tech & smart grid and destination retail.

In an e-mail to ABC11, Town Manager Marvin Collins explained they're taking projected growth into account, pointing to construction on a new town hall. That includes 25% unfinished shell space for future buildout. Collins said other measures include annual updates to a 10-year staffing analysis, with town leaders incorporating plan recommendations for infrastructure and facilities in the five-year capital improvement plan as part of the budget.

"I think the growth is going to continue to come this way. We've got to do our best to maintain it and keep it all together," said Congleton.

The Wendell Town Council will hold a public hearing Monday night for a new development project that would add more than 500 residences.

The 161-acre proposal would create an area called Martin Pond Residential Subdivision, which includes land along Martin Pond Road, between Hidden Pond Road and Petunia Lane. It would include 345 single-family homes and 179 townhomes.

For a town whose motto is "Small Town, Big Charm," there is some hesitancy over even more building.

"I've lived out here over 20 years. It's very quiet here and a lot of nature. It's going to be interrupted again. Because we're going to be surrounded on both sides from this development that the roads are not ready for this traffic," said Lee House, whose home is near the proposed site.

"The population is growing way too much. The roads need to be doubled. Our privacy is going to be completely gone. Completely gone back here. I just don't think they took into consideration," added Taylor Little, House's neighbor.

The land is just a couple miles from Wendell Falls, with the pair concerned about the traffic and quality-of-life impact.

"My husband's lived in Wendell his whole life. We loved the town of Wendell, and we still do, but I just a lot. It's way too much. The developments were way too much," said Little