Wilmington citizens who live near the Mayfaire and Bradley Creek area spoke out Tuesday against an ordinance that would change zoning to allow for an Eastwood Road shopping center with a 36,000 square-foot grocery store and a two-story, 20,400 square-foot office building. Council members passed the rezoning request in a 4-2 vote during their regular meeting, but the ordinance is still not completely approved.
During the city council process, in order for an item to be ratified it must have unanimous approval to waive a second reading after the initial vote of approval. Council members Laura Padgett and Kevin O’Grady voted against the proposed change, which puts it on the October 20 council agenda for a second – and likely final – vote.
Frank Madonna, a Landfall resident who is running for city council, spoke against the plan during Tuesday’s public hearing. Madonna said his neighborhood and others nearby the proposed development represent some 30 percent of the city’s voting electorate and “probably about 30 percent of this city’s revenue.”
Madonna, like others, said the proposed shopping center would add to traffic and congestion and cause property values in the area to go down.
According to the city of Wilmington’s planning commission, while the new shopping center would add street lights and turning lanes on both Eastwood and Cavalier roads, the center is expected to add 4,500 cars each day to Eastwood Road.
Dylan McNamara, a professor of physics at UNCW and a Wilmington
resident who lives close to the proposed development, opposed the rezoning as well. “Within two miles of the property there is more than 400,000 square feet of office space already available, along with two specialty food markets and five grocery stores,” said McNamara. “Is this really going to help our city’s economy?”
Others questioned the viability of another grocery store in the area.
“Consider the risk if the grocery store fails, especially considering the nearby competition,” said Wilmington resident Laura McCabe. “For example, the Artisan Market tried to compete with Fresh Market, which was located across the street and it closed in 2008…that property still remains vacant.”
Council members Padgett and O’Grady, who voted against the proposed rezoning, both argued the development contradicted the city’s Future Land Use Plan adopted by city council in September 2004.
“The indication in the report that you’re [the planning commission] using today is that this property is classified as a ‘transitioning area’ in the Future Land Use Plan for the consistency in our approval, said O’Grady. “This property is not a place designated in that plan as a transitioning area, and we’re potentially wiping out an entire residential area.”
Glenn Harbeck, a representative from the Planning Commission, said the presence of a grocery store and office building is already a mixed use in the sense residents and communities adjoining this property would be able to access the property without getting on or off of Eastwood Road. A property classified as mixed use could make it consistent with a Future Future Land Use Plan’s definition of a transitioning area, he said.
“The fact is people already have access in that direction to grocery stores, and I have a real concern with a development that is going to produce much more traffic, this quickly,” said Padgett. “If we add another 4,500 cars we’re not going to be able to drive to the beach.”
While a grocery store has not yet been identified for this location and a rendering of the office space has not yet been created, councilmen Rivenbark and Anderson voiced their approval for the new shopping center.
“This has been through two public hearings and I have faith in our planning commission who vets these projects way more then we’re capable of doing here,” said Rivenbark. “A number of our citizens have spoken here tonight, and I hear them but I just need to vote in the way I feel.”
James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD