Thursday, November 3, 2022 - 00:00

Local Government Commission Approves $105 Million Independent Living Project The Forest at Duke in Durham is Expanding; Sewer/Water Financing Requests Get Green Light

The Forest at Duke in Durham is Expanding; Sewer/Water Financing Requests Get Green Light
Raleigh, NC
Nov 3, 2022

(Cullowhee, N.C.) – A five-story building to house 71 independent living apartments in the heart of Durham (Durham County) will move forward after the Local Government Commission (LGC) approved a $105.1 million bond package sought by the N.C. Medical Care Commission on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The project, spanning 250,000 square feet on the 47-acre campus at The Forest at Duke, will be an addition to the existing 234 independent living units, 34 assisted living units and 58 skilled nursing beds on the Pickett Road campus, which first opened 30 years ago. All necessary permits and approvals have been secured for construction. Already, 93% of the proposed units have been reserved.

The N.C. Medical Care Commission previously approved the project. The commission administers the Health Care Facilities Finance Act, which enables it to issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to finance construction and equipment projects for nonprofit and public hospitals, nursing homes, continuing care facilities for the elderly and related facilities, according to its website.

The LGC, chaired by State Treasurer Dale R. Folwell, CPA, and staffed by the Department of State Treasurer (DST), has a statutory duty to approve most debt issued by units of local government and public authorities in the state. The commission examines whether the amount of money units borrow is adequate and reasonable for proposed projects and confirms the governmental units can reasonably afford to repay the debt. It also monitors the financial well-being of more than 1,100 local government units.   

The November LGC meeting was held at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. Treasurer Folwell has been holding meetings outside of Raleigh as part of an initiative to bring the state’s business directly to the people.    

Among other agenda items, the LGC approved a request by the Raleigh Housing Authority (Wake County) for $27 million in conduit revenue bonds, which can be used by public agencies to loan to a third party to finance capital assets. The loan will go to Milner Senior Housing Partners to lease, build and equip Milner Commons, a 156-unit, multifamily project comprising 10 studio units, 122 one-bedroom and 24 two-bedroom units in two four-story residential buildings. 

The City of Greenville (Greenville Utilities Commission, Pitt County) successfully asked the LGC to sign off on up to $30 million in revenue bonds to perform water, sewer and electric work. Plans include new transmission lines; replacing outdated generators; dredging, dewatering and disposing of residual material in a lagoon to restore capacity; and building a new substation.

Aces for Autism, a nonprofit treatment and educational center in Pitt County, received approval for $9.7 million from the N.C. Capital Facilities Finance Agency. The NCCFFA provides tax-exempt financing to nonprofit institutions providing elementary and secondary education, and private institutions of higher education.

Aces for Autism works with individuals from ages 18 months to 21 years who are affected by autism. The money will be used for Phase 1 of a master plan for the nonprofit organization’s 23.83 acres in Winterville. It includes a 32,000-square-foot family services and clinic building for one-on-one therapy; activity, cafeteria, store, diagnostic, counseling, parent training and administrative space; sensory and quiet rooms. 

On a 5-2 vote, LGC members gave a green light to Sunset Beach (Brunswick County) to purchase 4.28 acres of land to create a kayak launch, swings and benches. The financing will be done through an installment purchase, which allows the borrower to pay back over time instead of all up front. The item originally was on the September LGC agenda, but was tabled because commission members wanted more information about the project.

The town of Robbins (Moore County) will perform a road paving project on its main residential areas now that the LGC approved $350,000 in financing. The request was subjected to LGC approval because Robbins is on the Unit Assistance List (UAL). Changes in the law earlier this year modified the thresholds for financing contracts requiring LGC approval, giving greater authority to examine towns’ fiscal and debt management practices to ensure units on the UAL are making sound financial decisions.