Trying again: Development plans on land rejected for rezoning to be presented to neighbors

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A 73-acre plot of land in the Wrightsboro area just north of Wilmington International Airport is at the heart of a controversial rezoning plan.

At their meeting last week, county commissioners voted against rezoning the vacant lot, which lies between Blue Clay Road and Castle Hayne Road, from residential district R-20 to residential district R-10. If passed, the amendment to the zoning map would have allowed for a greater number of units to be built in future developments.

“The main difference between the two is that with R-10 you can get smaller lot sizes and a higher density,” said New Hanover County Current Planner Brad Schuler, who made the presentation to the board at the commissioners’ meeting.

The applicants, property owners TF Holdings Lt. Partnership, LLC, Rachel Trask Gonsalves Heirs and New Beginning Christian Church, Inc., requested a straight rezoning for the four parcels of land on the lot, meaning that no specific site plans were necessary. This proved to be a problem, as the uncertainty of what could be built there is causing concern among area residents and led to Vice Chair Beth Dawson and Commissioners Skip Watkins and Woody White rejecting the amendment.

“I think part of the problem right now is just there is so much speculation and unknown,” said Dawson.

Cindee Wolf, a land planning consultant who also presented to the board on the applicants’ behalf, is looking to do away with some of that “speculation and unknown” at a meeting for residents this week.

From 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Wrightsboro Fire Station, Wolf will be presenting plans for a development called Rachel’s Place. The project, which involves just one of the three property owners that applied for rezoning, would be a 154-lot performance residential subdivision.

Lots on performance residential subdivisions, as opposed to conventional ones, are not subject to the dimensional standards that the latter has to adhere to.

“The vast majority of subdivisions within the county are reviewed as performance residential subdivisions,” Schuler said at the commissioners’ meeting. “That is because they offer a lot of flexibility in the design and layout of the development.”

Unlike conventional residential subdivisions, there is no minimum lot size for performance developments, but there is a maximum density standard. In an R-20 zone, 1.9 units are allowed per acre under performance guidelines. In an R-10 zone, the number of units per acre increases to 3.3.

“What that does is give you more flexibility because people these days don’t want big hunking lots,” said Wolf, adding that it leaves more room in the development for green spaces and common areas.

According to Wolf, the owners did not have these plans ready a few months ago when the rezoning amendment was first brought to the county. That, she said, is why they opted for a straight rezoning request as opposed to a conditional use one, which requires a specific site plan. Armed with the details of the plan for Rachel’s Place, Wolf said they will be petitioning for a conditional use rezoning this next time around.

“Unfortunately the commissioners didn’t feel like they had all the information,” Wolf said. “The public basically said, ‘We want to see what you’re doing’.”

Wolf said she and an engineer will present the project to attendees, addressing issues such as stormwater runoff and traffic impacts, which residents voiced to the board of commissioners as some of their main concerns about adding a higher density neighborhood to their area.

The Wrightsboro Fire Station is located at 3515 N. Kerr Avenue. Residents are encouraged to attend, and those who cannot can contact Wolf via phone at (910) 620-2374 or email at cwolf@lobodemar.biz with any questions or concerns.