New Hill community center could open in summer 2015

aramos@newsobserver.comMay 12, 2014 

— Three years ago, a partnership of three Wake County towns promised to build a community center if residents dropped the legal fight over a sewage treatment plant off of New Hill Holleman Road.

Now the community center is closer to becoming a reality.

Organizers bought 2 1/2 acres of land on New Hill Holleman Road next to Apex Fire Station 2 for the community center.

The project could open in the summer of 2015, said Paul Barth, a resident who is coordinating the project.

As Apex and Holly Springs continue to grow beyond their boundaries, rural New Hill is disappearing.

“The reason we wanted a community center is we wanted a way to keep the identity of New Hill,” Barth said. “It’s just a way to bring the community together.”

The center will have a kitchen, offices, a multipurpose meeting room and a small playground, he said.

The building will be able to accommodate about 150 people, providing meeting space in the area.

Barth envisions the center as a place for yard sales, weddings, family gatherings and fundraisers.

Western Wake Partners – made up of Cary, Apex and Morrisville – paid $500,000 for the center in 2011.

A separate nonprofit group called the New Hill Community Center is charged with getting the site up and running and operating it.

It took 18 months to find the right property at an affordable price, Barth said.

Only $100,000 could be used toward the land purchase. The rest must be spent on construction and furniture, operations and maintenance, according to the 2011 settlement agreement.

Even with the money from the Western Wake Partners, it won’t be enough to finish the building. Barth said he won’t know how much more is needed until the final design and construction bids come in.

The community center’s board of director will seek some grant funding, he said.

Once the community center is complete, it will close a contentious chapter in New Hill’s history.

For almost a decade, residents tried to fight off the Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility. They worried the sewage plant would bring pollution to the area that is already home to the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant.

In 2010, the association and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed a petition with the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings to deny a permit, claiming the plant would have significant consequences for low-income and black residents. The facility would expose residents to sewage sludge, noxious odors and increased noise and light pollution, according to the petition.

After mandatory mediation sessions, the groups reached a settlement that included connecting the community center to the new wastewater plant for free and building two bus stops.

The plant is expected to open this summer.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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