Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Leland annexes more commercial property, places 83 acres in conservation

Leland has been placing acreage in its conservation district as rapid development and new annexations continue. (Port City Daiy/file photo)

LELAND — Leland is continuing its development trends with a new annexation and more town-owned land placed in conservation.

Leland Town Council approved annexing 6.83 acres at the intersection of U.S. Highway 17 and Hewett-Burton Road. Half the parcel is home to an existing Circle K gas station and convenience store and the rest is undeveloped. The parcels were annexed at the behest of owners Global Property Holdings LLC and Circle K Stores Inc.

READ MORE: Leland has annexed hundreds of acres of land it plans to conserve

The town set the initial zoning of the property as general commercial business, roughly equivalent to its commercial low density classification in the county.

A staff report on the parcel notes the parcels were identified in the town’s 2045 plans as “areas with high development potential.” The area connects to the town’s existing limits.

The town annexed and applied the new zoning to the property in separate, unanimous votes. The planning board also unanimously recommended the zoning. There are no current plans to develop the untouched section of land.

Leland also added to its stock of town-owned conservation properties. During the same meeting, the council agreed to place an 83-acre parcel on U.S. Route 74, north of the Juniper Creek Development, into its conservation district.

The town acquired the forested property in August and its previous zoning classification was medium-density residential. With the change to conservation, the property is protected from development even if it is sold. It will now require a rezoning for any commercial or residential builds. 

Planner Marissa Ernst noted the parcel connects to more conservation property that wraps around Juniper Creek.

The conservation district does allow for some limited park development, such as walking trails, but this parcel is the latest in a recent portfolio of hundreds of acres the town has placed in conservation in the past two years. In this case, the parcel was within town limits, but the town has purchased or been donated hundreds of acres outside its limits, which it then annexed and placed in the conservation district.

Most recently it converted 147 acres that wraps behind the Westgate area from multifamily residential to conservation. The town acquired that property in 2008 via donation from the county.

Town Planning Director Ben Andrea, when interviewed about the issue in December, told Port City Daily the intention behind the rezonings is to preserve natural areas as development pressure builds out most of the area surrounding the town.

The amount of land the town holds in conservation is dwarfed by the amount the town is pulling in for new development. During the same meeting Leland council placed the Westgate property in conservation, it annexed 2,100 acres that will likely become a commercial and housing development. Much of the parcel was considered rural residential by the county.

Local realtor and Nicholas Newell spoke during the public hearing on the zoning change. He said it was unfortunate many attendees left before hearing about the conservation. Newell was one of several speakers critical of the development practice in the town; he also has spoken out against land clearing practice in the town.

“Feedback is inherently critical,” Newell said. “We are far more often, as humans, likely to give somebody feedback about a negative experience rather than a positive experience. So I wanted to take a moment to counter my earlier comments with a thank you to the town and to the town staff for looking for all the ways they can find land for conservation.”

Newell added he hopes Leland will consider a tree ordinance. The town plans to consider measures that would disallow clearcutting, which was tabled in 2021 amid the threat of a state ban on local tree regulation.

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