‘Welcome to Wilmington’: City council unanimously approves Middle Sound Loop annexation

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Wilmington City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance to annex more than 12 acres of property for a proposed shopping center at the intersection of Market Street and Middle Sound Loop Road.

Ron Satterfield, the city’s assistant director of planning, development and transportation, recommended council approve the voluntary annexation on the basis that the 12.7-acre tract met all the N.C. General Statutes’ requirements for non-continuous annexations.

Residents from the community around the annexed location have been vocal in their concerns over the size and scope of the Halpern Development Co. project, which will contain a 72,000-square foot retail shopping center and a 9,500-square-foot auto care center that would make up the future Ogden Market Place, according to city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert.

SaveOgden.com, a community group of some Middle Sound Loop Road and other area residents, formed to address residents’ concerns about the project as proposed.

“We are not opposed to responsible development, and would welcome a plan that includes a smaller grocery store and saves the historic live oaks,” the grassroots group states on its website.

But no one from the public spoke against the project during city council’s public hearing ahead of Tuesday’s vote.

Councilwoman Laura Padgett expressed concerns about Halpern Development’s initial application to be annexed and zoned by New Hanover County.

“I’m concerned with the fact we [the city of Wilmington] are kind of setting a precedent that if a piece of property isn’t zoned in the county–and the county isn’t interested in zoning it or developing it the way they want to–that we automatically get asked to annex,” Padgett said.

Tom Johnson, representative from Halpern, said the project was withdrawn before it reached the New Hanover County Planning Board “because of the structure in terms of the ordinance and the staff that the city has makes it easier to do this kind of development.”

With no further discussion from other members of the council the annexation passed by unanimous vote.

“Welcome to Wilmington,” Mayor Bill Saffo said. “Thank you, and thank you for your business.”

A representative from Halpern told Port City Daily earlier this year that a grocery store was planned for the site, but would not confirm whether it would be Florida-based Publix, which SaveOgden.com references multiple times on its website.

The annexation will become effective on June 30 and will now go to the Wilmington Planning Commission for a public hearing on July 1 to set a zoning assignment. If the planning commission establishes a zoning designation, it will then be brought back to council for a vote on Aug. 4.