WILMINGTON — The Carolinian Inn property and surrounding land off Market Street could be replaced with 148 housing units, but the plan is taking some heat from nearby neighbors.
Over a hundred residents from the Beaumont, Forest Hills, Brookwood and Mercer neighborhoods discussed using the community’s “vast resources” to oppose the plan at a community meeting on Thursday.
“We have deep pockets in this neighborhood, and we’re not afraid to use them,” resident Dan Dawson said at the meeting in Beaumont Park.
The housing plan was put forth by Wilmington’s Paramounte Engineering and South Carolina’s Orange Capital Advisors. The latter is a South Carolina company, a fact disagreeable to meeting attendees.
Positioned between Wayne Drive and 29th Street, the plan is proposing a three- or four-story apartment building with 100 units to replace The Carolinian Inn. Behind it would be 48 two-story townhomes.
The developers would need to rezone the 9-acre property to MD-17, high-density multiple-dwelling residential. The Carolinian Inn is zoned O&I (office & institutional) while the area behind it, including the neighborhoods, is R-15 (moderate-density single-dwelling). The development would max out the number of units allowed under the MD-17 zoning.
If the city approves the rezoning, Orange Capital Advisors will make a bid to purchase the property and demolish the Carolinian Inn, which is still in operation. Development Manager Alec Gregg said that would be a favor to the community due to the inn’s shady past.
According to a 2017 affidavit from the Wilmington Police Department, prostitution, assaults, robberies, and rampant drug use were evident at the hotel.
At Thursday’s meeting, the high-density rezoning was the hardest pill to swallow. Residents said the influx of people would strain the area’s aging stormwater system, overwhelm the already-crowded roads and potentially decrease property values.
“This is outrageous, offensive, and unsustainable,” Wayne Drive resident Polly Tait said.
Safety concerns for the community’s children were also raised at the meeting. Although the community resides in the heart of town, right off busy Market Street, residents savor the peaceful enclave the neighborhood setup provides. Adding more people, they say, would be a major disruption.
“I would no longer feel safe allowing my children to play in my own neighborhood,” Renovah Circle resident Alissa Dark-Freudeman said. “This is not acceptable.”
“[Seeing the plan] was like being hit in the head with a two-by-four,” Dawson said at the meeting.
He suggested residents pool together their expertise and wallets to fight the development. Hiring a lawyer should be priority number one for the group, according to Dawson, who also suggested creating a community fund of an initial $10,000 to represent them.
“You’re in the big leagues now,” Dawson said. “We’re going to see how far our checkbooks are going to take us to fight for this.”
Gregg said he has received a lot of feedback from residents and is prepared to address their concerns in future conversations.
“We don’t want to crowd them and make them feel like we’re building something right on top of them,” Gregg said. “We want to be respectful of their presence over there.”
He said Orange Capital Advisors aims to keep many of the area’s longstanding trees. A traffic survey is already underway as well, but Gregg says the plan is for the development’s traffic to enter and exit onto Market Street, not the residential side streets.
The meeting’s speakers, including Tait and Dawson, said they would be willing to compromise with developers and promote a conversation between the two parties. Developing the area was always an expectation, and it was only a matter of time before someone decided to do it, according to two outspoken neighbors. The hope is it can be done in a way that complements the established neighborhoods.
Tait and Dawson claimed the development would not be compatible with the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan, which outlines guidance for the next 25 years of city growth.
Create Wilmington acknowledges the city is running out of land to develop, so the focus has shifted to smaller-scale infill and redevelopment at all scales.
To limit negative impacts of infill development, the plan suggests implementing vegetative buffers between properties, dedicated land for greenway corridors, and adding parking lots in between properties to distance businesses from residential areas.
The Create Wilmington plan pays special attention to outer Market Street with more specific infill development guidelines. The plan suggests houses offer parking in the back versus using front driveways. Buffers between Market Street businesses and neighborhoods are suggested to be done with vegetation screening, fences and alleys, but pedestrian accessibility should be preserved.
The proposed land design includes a vegetative buffer between the 148 homes and surrounding residences. A pond and potential wetlands are located at the back of the property, where all water flows. The proposal includes two access points, one near the apartment building on Wayne Drive and one at the back of the property off 29th Street.
Parmounte and Orange Capital have yet to submit an official rezoning application to the city because the land development code requires them to hold a community meeting first.
Dawson stressed city council would have to be just as fair to the neighborhood residents as they would be the developers — as long as everyone behaved. Dawson urged everyone at the meeting to avoid spouting opinions on Facebook, badmouthing anyone involved with the development, or trying to curry favor with any decisionmakers. He said everything should be done by the book.
“Let’s be objective and fair and do it like we’re supposed to do it,” Dawson said.
The community meeting with the developers will be held on June 8 at 6 p.m. at The Bridge Church on Market Street.
Reach out to Brenna Flanagan at email@example.com.