The faltering economy has stifled another project.
Wendell Falls developer Greg Ferguson told the Wendell Planning Board last night that the braintrust at WakeMed has decided to wait on plans to purchase land off Knightdale Bypass in the Wendell Falls development.
Ferguson, and WakeMed's Vice President of Ambulatory Services Carolyn Knaup, both blame rising interest rates for the decision to delay the purchase of the parcel.
"Until recently, they could sell bonds at two or three percent and now it's what? Eight or 9 percent," Ferguson said.
Knaup said the delay is simply a part of doing business. "We are managing our checkbook just like everyone else. The economy has hit healthcare, too. I think people think healthcare is immune to that, but it's not," Knaup said.
Both Ferguson and Knaup say they expect the project will be completed, but exactly when is uncertain. Plans originally called for construction to begin as early as this month.
But WakeMed's board of trustees decided to wait before they actually close on the sale of the land. Ferguson told Wendell planning board members last night that he expects the hospital board of trustees to act on the sale at its meeting next month. He said the sales contract calls for WakeMed to close on the property by the end of the year.
Knaup said she was not familiar with the particulars of the sales contract, but she said hospital trustees don't plan to revisit the project until the first quarter of 2009.
She also said the viability of the project depends on the number of homes in the service area.
"It's our understanding that the housing community that was planned there has taken a bit of a step back. Rooftops are vital for us. We need rooftops and people living under those roofs," Knaup said.
But Ferguson didn't indicate any slowdown on the part of the development process in Wendell Falls. He told the planning board that construction of Wendell Falls Parkway continues on schedule and builders have already claimed lots in three sections within the giant 4,000-home subdivision.
Still, he says WakeMed's decision doesn't surprise him.
"Wendell Falls is not surprised that WakeMed decided not to start in October, perhaps the worst financial month in recent history. But we hope they will start shortly," Ferguson said.