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Friday, May 24, 2024

Neighbors make final effort to speak out about Galleria project before it heads to TRC

The current Haven at Galleria site plan.

WILMINGTON — A mixed-use project that has languished in the planning phase for years is closing in on city approval.

The former Galleria mall property located on Wrightsville Avenue changed hands from Charlotte-based State Street Companies to Spartanburg’s Johnson Development Associates last summer. The sale went through after State Street was hung up on producing a new traffic impact analysis to build a mix of shops and more than 600 housing units at the site.

READ MORE: Galleria plans back to square one after rocky process with former developer

Johnson had to go back to square one after it bought the property for $30 million, but its project, dubbed “Haven at the Galleria,” is similar to the original. It includes two mixed-use buildings, covering 4 acres each, bisected by a private road.

The city’s design adjustment committee, a body made up of city staff and Cape Fear Public Utility Authority engineering services director Carel Vandemeyer, signed off on additional technical waivers for the proposed site plan Jan. 18. City senior planner Brian Chambers confirmed to Port City Daily the project only has technical preview committee approval left.

A staff report on the issue notes four of the five waivers are reapprovals from the previously proposed project. According to John Tunstall, of Wilmington engineering firm Norris and Tunstall, the 2020 approved site plan had a dozen variances — five of which are separate from those approved Jan. 18. They are still valid for the site but no longer necessary in the new design.

These are the new waivers:

• Minimum horizontal curve radius on a collector street

• 35-foot radius of the roadway edge at the corners

• Minimum right-of-way width for a collector street

• Minimum tangent length between horizontal curves

• Providing 10-foot wide non-municipal easements along both sides of the right-of-way

“Our revised plan shows basically the same entrances of the previous plan entering onto Wrightsville Avenue,” Tunstall said, noting the private access road with parking bisecting the property which will provide additional utility easements.

That loop road is new as well. The previous developer’s plan only had one public entrance and exit onto the street. The new road is called a “collector” street, an engineering term for roadways that move traffic off main thoroughfares and onto smaller roads. 

Committee chair and city engineer Rob Gordon noted he was pleased to see the loop road incorporated into the design.

Resident Tony Carter, a retired civil engineer who lives west of the property, spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

“Some of the stuff just don’t make sense to me,” he said, referencing the road layout in the plan.

He questioned the placement of access points along the loop road and said his neighbors are attempting to get a deeded driveway access easement to their property for a woman in her 80s. He also questioned the amount of traffic the development will bring to the area.

The Wrightsville Avenue site last fall. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti)

Wayne Age’s elderly mother has battled maintaining access on the western end of the property; Famous Toastery is located next door. He asked for consideration of the issue.

“I’m sure not one of you would want to have experienced what we’ve had to go through,” Age said. “It’s like David and Goliath. And I’m hoping, I’m hoping and sincerely praying, that you would take this consideration under advisement.”

Other speakers offered general complaints. Cindy Locklear, another neighbor, claimed the survey of a stormwater retention pond on site is inaccurate, but Tunstall said the pond has already been permitted.

“I ask you, I beg you to take your time with this process,” Locklear said.

Other comments focused on traffic, noise and light pollution.

After closing the public hearing, Gordon offered clarification on the committee’s purpose.

“We’re considering technical variances,” he said. “[W]e’re not approving the overall project. We don’t have the ability to shut it down or anything like that.”

He noted the TRC review will pore over the construction plans and part of that process is a new traffic impact analysis.

CFPUA’s Vandemeyer asked Tunstall to respond to the access concerns raised by Carter and Age. Tunstaill said his firm is aware of an access easement along the property line\; it provides a city standard access. Tunstaill indicated the company could make the access wider than the 15-foot standard. He also clarified the loop street is public.

“I see what they mean,” Gordon said. “It’s a pretty tight turn into that driveaway, and I don’t know where it goes from there. We just want to make sure we maintain access for emergency vehicles.”

The committee approved the variances and overall design.

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