By David Leone and Brandon Anderson
There is no one way to define a whole news year in a way that encompasses everything, but there were some trends in 2016 that bear noting. Set aside the shootings and violence and what you largely have left is a year full of residential and business growth, of plans for more growth, and of the growing pains that come with constantly building communities.
We’ve broken the year down by month, to show you the biggest stories to cross our desks in 2016.
•Though questions about vehicle queuing remained, Envision Science Academy garnered Wake Forest Planning Board approval to build a permanent location for the charter school in Traditions. Expecting to open in 2017, it will eventually house 648 students in grades K-8.
•The Franklin County Animal Shelter underwent an extreme two-day makeover, courtesy of the volunteer group, the Legacy Center NC158 Leadership Team. Improvements include creation of a dog play area and walking trails.
•Wake County Schools gave the go-ahead for renovations at Rolesville Elementary School, which will see a scattered campus brought under one roof. One of the major components of the project involves razing the existing gym and replacing it with a multipurpose room and cafeteria better suited for school plays, concerts and functions. Completion is expected in November, 2017.
•A consultant labeled the quality of construction on the Wake Forest town hall “terrible” after years of recurring water leaks. “This building is one of the worst that we’ve seen from the waterproofing standpoint and construction standpoint,” said Terracon leak remediation company representative Steve Walker.
•Rolesville Fire Department revealed a plan to add three fire substations to the area, deemed critical to handle the town’s growth — in particular due to new homes added to the north and west sides of town.
•Rolesville commissioners approved the 60-home, Farmstead at Duke’s Place subdivision on 36 acres on Jones Dairy Road. Anticipating traffic issues, the developer promised commissioners to put aside $6,000 to go toward a future stoplight at Jones Dairy and Averette roads.
•Lidl, an Aldi competitor, revealed plans to locate a discount grocery store on 5.3 acres at South Main Street and the Dr. Calvin Jones Highway in Wake Forest. The framework of the building was up at year’s end.
•Renovating the town-owned Renaissance Centre in full could cost the town of Wake Forest $1.1 million over four years, according to the Capital Improvements Plan. The sound system, lighting and stage are inadequate for many functions; the upstairs needs renovating and there are plans to tie the site into the adjoining space (also owned by the town), now accessible only through a second front door. The town purchased the former entertainment club several years ago for about $1 million.
•A promise of repayment by the Wireless Research Center of North Carolina is going to have to wait. Wake Forest commissioners approved a 10-year extension (and balloon payment) on the $949,000 the nonprofit center owes the town. The original loan was to come due at the end of 2016. The loan came from the town’s Futures Fund, a slush fund created from the sale of land for development to be used for economic development purposes.
•A new town hall is in the works for Youngsville; the building commissioners are eyeing is located next to the National Guard Armory at 134 U.S. 1A. The cost to up-fit the site for use by town hall staff and the police department is estimated at $850,000. That’s about half the cost estimated to rebuild at the current site, staffers explained.
•A traumatic, avoidable wreck that took the life of Wake Forest High School English teacher Michelle Barlow served to highlight the increasing congestion and danger facing people on local roadways.
•The Wake Forest Fire Department is set to dedicate Station No. 4 on Jenkins Road. The station houses a 12-person staff, consisting of three shifts of four-person crews, and is expected to reduce call times on Wake Forest’s west side and the rural service area beyond.
•Two triple-murders shocked the communities of Wake Forest and Louisburg. In the Clearsprings subdivision on Wake Forest’s eastern edge, a couple and grandmother were murdered by shotgun allegedly at the hands of the victims’ friend and neighbor Jon Sander. Killed were Sandy and Stephanie Mazzella and Elaine Toby Mazzella. On Harris Road, Louisburg, a woman, her daughter and friend were shot to death by a suspect believed to be convicted felon Darius Robinson. Killed were Keisha Livingston, 36, Shamare Malik Harris, 18, and Diana Marie Edgerton, 23.
•The first of the town of Wake Forest’s Friday Night on White free downtown concerts was held April 8 and was a smashing success. Four thousand or more people came downtown, and either went into the shops or came back the next day to shop. Shortages of beer and tokens were remedied by the second event in May and only one of the six summer concerts was rained out, halfway through.
•Rolesville town leaders began working on a plan for sidewalks to be added along pedestrian thoroughfares throughout town. Ten separate projects have been identified. To do all of them would cost $10 million, and town leaders hope to find grant funding for some of those projects.
•A regional library has opened in Wakefield, serving parts of North Raleigh and Wake Forest. The site on Green Elm Lane across from the Forest Pines elementary schools features a 22,000-square-foot space and 140,000 new books.
•The Civil War era film Union Bound, produced by Wake Forest movie company Uptone Pictures, saw a nationwide release including playing at the Marquee Cinemas in Wakefield. The story follows the real-life diary-notated adventures of Joseph Hoover, who fought for the North. Hoover is an ancestor of Wake Forest’s Pam Jay.
•Problems with aging paint and the plaster underneath in the Holding Park Pool led the town of Wake Forest to delay the swim season opening. By November, it was clear the existing pool would have to be rebuilt, or filled-in and a new pool designed altogether. Town commissioners resigned themselves to the fact that a new pool could not be installed before 2018.
•Rolesville resident James Michael Aaron, 29, was arrested after his Wake Forest friend, Wesley Collin Carpenter, 27, was shot and killed at Aaron’s North Main Street home. The men had been drinking at Carpenter’s residence prior to the shooting, according to police. Aaron’s family maintains he’s falsely accused.
•Builders’ plans revealed that a Panera Bread, Chipotle, iHop and Freddy’s Burgers are all possible on the Dr. Calvin Jones Highway at Retail Drive. If followed through, the latter three restaurants will be tenants of a to-be-constructed building near Chick-fil-A. Panera Bread is now under construction across the bypass behind the Carolina Ale House.
•An alleged bomb threat and shooting calls in Wake Forest’s Carriage Run neighborhood May 26 appeared to be a type of hoax referred to as a “swatting” incident, in which someone calls police to a home to get the residents living there in trouble. The road, Countryman Court, was evacuated, and at one point traffic was stopped along the neighboring Ligon Mill Road, but no danger was revealed and no suspects were caught.
•Shorty’s Famous Hot Dogs celebrated its 100th anniversary in Wake Forest, all at the same location at 214 S. White St. Founded in February, 1916 by H.E. Joyner as a way to provide food for guests at his Gem Theater, the business has stayed in the same family ever since, losing the movie house, but retaining the restaurant. Shorty’s was recognized twice this year by the town — in June during the Friday Night on White concert series and earlier this month current father-son owners Bill and Chris Joyner were grand marshals of the Wake Forest Christmas Parade.
•The town of Rolesville dedicated its first Veterans Memorial, located along with a flagpole at Main and Young streets downtown. The polished granite marker has the seals of all five branches of the military.
•Kelvin Melton, 51, the mastermind behind the brazen front-door kidnapping in Heritage two years ago, was convicted in federal court of kidnapping, conspiracy, attempted kidnapping and using a firearm during a violent crime. Melton orchestrated the kidnapping from prison where he was serving a life sentence, in retaliation for prosecutor Colleen Janssen putting him there. The crew acting on his orders seized her father Frank Janssen instead, who was later rescued by police in Atlanta, Ga.
•Rogers Road closed June 27 in Heritage to replace the bridge over Smith Creek. It was a headache for residents making a 5-mile loop around (adding 20 minutes to their journey in some places). But the real damage was done to businesses on either side of the bridge, which saw a serious drop in customers during the five-month-long closure. The bridge reopened in November, leading one resident to exclaim, “Hallelujah!”
•The process to build Phase 2 of Wake Forest’s Joyner Park began with a review of the plans for a new community center. The center will house basketball, pickleball and volleyball courts. At year’s end, architects were still working on the community center design.
•A nighttime police pursuit that began in Creedmoor ended on the Dr. Calvin Jones Highway with the death of the driver, William David Fletcher, 45. Fletcher’s van struck a flatbed trailer after running the red light, police said.
•The Heritage neighborhood is almost entirely built out and developer Andy Ammons is stepping back from his day-to-day involvement. As a result, he’s sold part of his share in the Golf Club to Traditional Golf Properties for $3.4 million, though he and his wife Jan retain a majority of the stock.
•Durham resident Sebastian Unique Smith, 26, was shot and killed in the early morning in front of the Hope House on North Allen Road, Wake Forest. Police quickly tracked down the suspect, Mykevian Kewshawn Massenburg, 19, of Wake Forest, and charged him with murder.
•Sam’s Club opened in Wake Forest Sept. 1. The bulk discount grocery store was welcomed by many — including a dozen or so shoppers who waited more than 30 minutes for the grand opening speeches and fanfare so they could get in there and shop. A week later, a new Publix grocery store opened in Heritage across from the Harris Teeter. The store has a dedicated following.
•A Tru by Hilton hotel is planned for Capital Boulevard in Wake Forest, according to Wake Forest planners. The hotel would be adjacent to Stadium Drive and would include a 3,000-square-foot conference center in a separate building. Also revealed was a plan to put an Academy Sports — a sporting goods shop — at the intersection of Wake Union Church Road and Capital Boulevard. A developer intends to bring back the previously approved shopping center for that site, of which Academy would be a parcel, but it’s unclear what else would be located there.
•One metric of the area’s residential growth can be measured in festivities. Five festivals were planned for two weeks in September: Wake Forest’s Good Neighbor Day and a new Irish music fest; Rolesville’s BBQ and Bands festival; Youngsville’s Fall Festival and the privately run Dirty Dogs Pet Extravaganza, also in Wake Forest. Also in that period, Lafayette Village held its Oktoberfest and Weiner Dog races, as well. It’s getting to be so there’s something big every week.
•A temporary crisis emerged when an oil pipeline in Birmingham, Ala. ruptured, leading to a very brief shortage of gas in North Carolina. Making the problem worse, some people filled up all their vehicles and gas containers. The pipeline was restored quickly, and within a week the crisis was over.
•Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer died at age 87. Though a Pennsylvania native, Palmer lived in Wake Forest while attending Wake Forest College (now a university) and got his start on the Paschal Golf Course, playing for the college team. A week after his passing, Wake Forest University graduates from the class of ’56 and other years visited the former campus and the Wake Forest Historical Museum, and raised a glass of half-lemonade, half-iced tea made famous by Palmer in a toast to him.
•Galaxy Fun Park, a 55,000-square-foot indoor entertainment center, opened in the former Kroger grocery store in Wakefield. The attractions include bumper cars, go-karts, laser tag, trampolines, a ropes course and zip line, a multi-level kids play area and bar and lounge for adults.
•Wake and Franklin counties escaped the wrath of the Oct. 8 Hurricane Matthew, which caused widespread damage downstate killing a number of residents.
Though the state later opened up Wake and Franklin counties for disaster relief assistance, most of the area’s damage was due to flooding which washed out a few roads and damaged crops. Rogers Road washed out between Wake Forest and Rolesville, blocking all traffic, until the road was fixed in early December.
•The Ledford Center at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary reopened after six months of renovation. The center now features a cafe, Back Alley Coffee, a new game room and student store.
•The Rolesville town board approved a 199-single family subdivision for Rolesville Road, the second significantly sized residential subdivision to gain approval in Rolesville this year.
•Tri-Area Ministry food bank, which aids 750-800 Wake Forest, Rolesville and Youngsville families, reported being in danger of its shelves going bare. The outpouring of support to help people hurt by the hurricane elsewhere in the state led to a reduction in food and monetary donations locally. After a Wake Weekly article and social media attention brought the news to the public’s attention, many local drives were held to restock the shelves.
•Franklin County commissioners selected Duke LifePoint’s $3 million bid to be the new medical service provider at Franklin Medical Center, which closed its doors last year. The proposal calls for a two-year lease (the county owns the building), providing a 24-hour emergency room service, 13 beds for geriatric mental health patients, with an option to increase that number to 60 beds. The hospital could be ready to reopen by next summer.
•N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory visited Wake Forest for a town hall type event, held at the Renaissance Centre and sponsored by the Wake Forest Area Chamber of Commerce. McCrory talked economic development, infrastructure, teacher pay and downtown revitalization. A small group of protesters complained afterward that questions critical of the governor were eliminated from consideration by the chamber.
•Donald Trump surprised the nation — and especially the pundits and pollsters — by defeating Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton and winning the U.S. presidential election. In North Carolina, Republicans held onto many of their legislative seats, including Wake Forest residents Chris Malone and Chad Barefoot, who were re-elected to the state House and Senate, respectively. But in the state governor’s race, Democratic challenger Roy Cooper narrowly defeated incumbent Pat McCrory, who conceded after several weeks of rechecking and recounts.
•On Memorial Day the town of Rolesville honored Capt. Andrew Byers, a special forces soldier killed in action in Afghanistan earlier that week. Byers’ family lives in Rolesville.
•Franklin County commissioners voted to offer K-Flex $1.35 million to locate a 360,000-square-foot manufacturing, production and distribution facility in Youngsville, estimated to bring up to 100 jobs to the area. K-Flex specializes in the manufacturing of rubber materials and is looking to expand its industry in insulation, foam flooring, oil and gas, and other areas.
•A pickup truck was rammed in the Wake Forest Walmart parking lot, flipping it over and injuring its occupants, in a road rage incident witnessed by a number of shoppers. The suspect, Bryan Gonzalez, is in jail on a $100,000 bond, awaiting trial on multiple charges.
•Rolesville commissioners could not agree to sign off on a modern sketch of town hall for their new municipal complex. The progressively-drawn new town hall would be placed among other two to three story buildings that could contain shops and restaurants, a library and the like. The town hall should stand apart from other structures, several board members said.
•U.S. Postal worker Araceli Santiago and a passerby may have saved Christmas, at least for some folks, by pulling most of the packages in her postal vehicle free after the truck caught fire in Heritage. The truck was destroyed by the fire, but all but a few of the packages were saved.
•Piper Lights, a rural Wake Forest, family-run, non-commercial Christmas lights display, took first place in the first week of the TV show The Great Christmas Light Fight, winning the $50,000 prize. Created by the Piper and Leggett families at 5725 Fixit Shop Road, the Christmas and Biblical-oriented displays feature more than a million lights (and will remain lit until Jan. 6).
•The Wake Forest High School football team beat Page High School 29-zip to win the 4AA state championship Dec. 17. It’s the first time Wake Forest’s football team has finished a season undefeated at 16-0 and also the first time they have won a state championship. The town of Wake Forest is planning a celebration in honor of the team to be held early in 2017.