NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A homeowner on the northern edge of New Hanover County wants to welcome campers onto his property; his neighbors aren’t so sure.
At a community meeting on Thursday, Douglas Grant and his lawyer, Matt Nichols, presented the plan for a 66-spot RV campground on Grant’s property along Sidbury Road. The nearly 20 acres, which Grant also lives on, would host 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of camping spots along, with a pool, trails and amenity area.
Because the property is zoned for single-family residential use, the project requires a special use permit from New Hanover County. Many of the neighbors that spoke up at the meeting preferred Grant develop single-family dwellings on the land instead, citing they have better confidence in “owner-occupied homes.”
Grant said the plan is to go that route, which he could do by-right, if the short-term RV spots are not approved by the county. However, the homes would be rented out as long-term housing.
“I need something residual,” Grant, who is currently employed repairing roofs, said of his income.
A few neighbors gathered in a horse stable at Russell’s Reach — located adjacent to his property — were not thrilled Grant’s motivation was to make money. Grant stated owning a campsite was a “dream job,” despite it not being “very lucrative.” Having worked in recreational fishing before, he compared it to managing a marina, which he said seemed “fun.”
“This is a sports fishing boat on land,” Grant said.
In contrast to Grant’s excitement over the project, his neighbors were concerned about visitors attracted to the RV park. They questioned if it would be used as cheap long-term residences, not targeted to family vacationers, due to its location. The nearest beach is 25 minutes away and downtown Wilmington is over 10 miles south. Other than Russell’s Reach and Poplar Grove Plantation, the property is surrounded by single-family homes.
One neighbor, Mary Phillips, handed out a sheet detailing her thoughts. She presumed people there would be “mostly men, construction workers, including migrants, possible illegals, drugs and very few families.”
Grant reminded the neighbors he will continue living on the property, and would not want illegal activity to occur there either. While he declined to answer what his vision for pricing is to Port City Daily, he told the group Thursday that he would put a condition in the special use permit limiting stays to 30 days.
“This is totally transient,” Grant said.
PCD reached out to Nichols to clarify if people would be barred from booking back-to-back stays; no response was received by press.
A few residents also expressed concerns over noise and light pollution, or even poor lighting fostering a seedy atmosphere. Nichols said there would be a 50-foot buffer — beyond what’s typically required, he added — separating surrounding properties. Grant also plans to also keep a forest of trees currently acting as a buffer.
The neighbors spent the majority of the meeting worrying over traffic and ingress and egress from the site. They noted the parcels — 8102, 8104 and 8106 Sidbury Road — are located right after a sharp curve in Sidbury Road. They feared RVs will be trying to “crawl in” to the site and exit it with low visibility, while other drivers may not see them in time to slow down after the curve.
There was a discussion if the entrance should be relocated to Farm Road on the other side of the development, though it was not clear what portion of the road was private versus public. Residents noted the dangers will only increase as new development proposed along the road takes shape. Sidbury Station is under construction 2.6 miles away, while more than 200 townhomes are proposed just a little farther down the road.
If all goes as planned, Grant plans to submit the special use permit application ahead of the July New Hanover County planning board meeting, where it could be reviewed by county commissioners as early as August.
Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at firstname.lastname@example.org