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Wildwood subdivision in Covington purchased

The partially-built Wildwood subdivision off the Covington Bypass Road has been purchased by a developer who plans to move forward where other developers have stalled out.

Real estate investor and developer James Righetti said he recently purchased the subdivision and plans to complete the development how it was originally planned.

"We will commence development when the market returns, most likely later next year," Righetti said in an email. "In the interim, we intend to assist the Wildwood residents with the maintenance and upkeep of the common areas."

Wildwood was in the news last August when another developer, The Ardent Properties in Atlanta, wanted to build out the subdivision; however, an Ardent representative didn't believe his company could afford to build out the subdivision if Ardent also paid to build a second road out of the neighborhood, as required by the International Fire Code and city ordinances.

Under the International Fire Code, housing developments of a certain size must have two ways to enter and leave the development so that emergency vehicles can still access the neighborhood if one way is blocked, Covington Fire Marshal Tony Smith said last year.

In addition, residents said having only one entrance - Scenic Parkway, two one-lane roads divided by a raised, grass median - was unsafe because it could be blocked off by a car breaking down or bad weather conditions, hindering both residents and emergency vehicles.

Righetti said in the email he intends to build a second entrance as required. Righetti's company, Oxford Bowen, has also purchased property in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties and Atlanta.

The Rev. Eric Threets Jr., who spoke publicly last year against allowing development without a second entrance, said residents are optimistic about the subdivision finally being built out, but they're also cautious.

"As far as the building out of this community, we all love and stand behind this community...and welcome anyone coming to join us," Threets said. "The only thing we're most concerned about is the potential disappointment or concern that they follow through, not only that the city and fire department continue to stand behind us, but to make sure even before a model home is built (the developer builds that second entrance)."

Another concern is the current operation of the subdivisions' homeowners association (HOA). Threets said Righetti's company has hired new companies to maintain the greenspace and pool; however, the residents are paying for at least part of those services, and Threets said HOA funds are running low.

Located on 256 acres just south of U.S. 278 and Route 36, Wildwood has 53 homes and 34 developed lots ready for homes; original plans called for up to 550 homes.

The undeveloped portion - around 189 acres - went into foreclosure during the housing market collapse and has changed hands multiple times before ending up with Hamilton State Bank and, now, Righetti.

The latest purchase price was not available as Newton County Clerk of Courts officials said they have not yet processed a deed for the sale of the subdivision property.