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Friday, May 17, 2024

‘Harmony’ or ‘clashing situation’: NHC greenlights residential complex in industrial area

A 521-residential unit complex was approved for rezoning by NHC commissioners Monday. The property is at the corner of Blue Clay and Holly Shelter roads and is adjacent to S&W Concrete and across from Adams Products Oldcastle. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti Willis)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Coming soon to northern New Hanover County are 521 residences, planned to be built along an industrial corridor. Commissioners approved Monday a rezoning request for 72 acres at the intersection of Blue Clay and Holly Shelter roads.

READ MORE: More than 500 apartments, more housing coming to NHC

Property owners Holly Tank LLC and Blue Tank LLC are building a four-phase residential development on land rezoned from I-1, industrial district, to conditional residential district. 

County spokesperson Alex Riley explained the property had previously been designated residential in the 1970s. Also, when the county released its comprehensive land use plan in 2016, the property was recommended for residential again.

As of now, the land sits near industrial business, including S&W Concrete Plant, Martin Marietta Quarry, Adams Products Oldcastle and American Chrome and Chemicals.

The rezoning request didn’t come without some hesitation from at least one member. 

Commissioner Rob Zapple focused on letters submitted by S&W Concrete Plant — owned by Titan America — and Martin Marietta, encouraging the county to deny the rezoning request.

The companies pointed to their daily activities, which often begin early in the morning and can include crushing, blasting, aggregate processing, and unloading of both rail and trucks.

“[They] caught my eye when they are clearly saying: ‘We have very heavy industrial uses in close proximity to this,’” he said at the meeting.

“Having campaigned in 2008 when the anti-Titan sentiment was very much alive, I guess this is Titan’s chance to say, ‘We don’t want something close to us now,’” commissioner Jonathan Barfield added. “It’s kind of ironic to say the least.”

Barfield was talking about Titan Concrete’s plans to build a plant, opposed strongly by many environmentalists and residents concerned with the impact to the region’s water and air. After nearly eight years, Titan decided to scrap the proposal in 2016.

Titan America owns S&W Concrete and has operated a concrete terminal since the 1990s.

“What happens when someone moves in and in six months says, ‘This is a public nuisance; it’s destroying my right to be able to sleep,’ or whatever it is?” Zapple asked Allison Engebretson with Paramounte Engineering, representing the applicant.

Engebreston explained it was the reason for one of the conditions in its rezoning approval. During the lease and buying process, a notification will be given to potential tenants to sign, acknowledging they understand the industrial surroundings.

Other conditions listed in the rezoning approval include providing bicycle and pedestrian connectivity throughout the property and limiting building height to 45 feet with a maximum of three stories.

Opposite of Zapple, Engebretson pointed out the nearby industrial and commercial zoning as a prime reason to have residents living nearby.

“Because industry is located there, we feel this is an opportunity to bring potential workers for those businesses close to business,” Engebreston told commissioners. “We don’t see it as adversarial. We see it as working in harmony.”

An apartment complex with 243 units is proposed for the corner nearest S&W Concrete; up to 278 proposed townhomes and rowhouses — a mix of duplex, triplex, and quadruplex — are planned for farther south on Blue Clay Road, located closer to existing single-family residential houses. 

Engebreston said the make-up of units has not been solidified and will be dictated by the market at the time of construction. She also noted the apartments will be rentals but there may be opportunities for sale of townhomes.

“The general area of our site is in the industrial and business corridor, which is one of the reasons we were attracted to this site,” Engebreston said. “It’s putting homes close to goods and services as well as potential workplace.”

She also noted it’s suited for growth as one of the last undeveloped corridors in the county.

Engebreston told commissioners the developers are planning an extended buffer zone to mitigate impact from the neighboring industrial sites.

The property also has areas of wetlands, which Engebreston said would be difficult for use as a traditional industrial site and one of the reasons the site was considered for their residential plans. Overall, 42% of the site will not be constructed upon.

Zapple mentioned air quality could be compromised given the industrial activity in the vicinity. He encouraged the applicant to strengthen the disclosure condition to include possible air quality issues.

“For your own sake, I think [it] needs to be as comprehensive as possible,” he said. “We’re setting up a clashing situation here, moving somewhere around 1,500 people into a heavy industrial zone. Someone’s going to be upset and I want to make sure you guys are covered, as well as the county.”

Deputy county attorney Karen Richards reminded commissioners there are federal regulations that monitor air quality and emissions to spot violations.

County manager Chris Coudriet also warned commissioners to not assume any industries are violating permits.

Commissioner LeAnn Pierce agreed.

“The surrounding businesses are in compliance — and if not, they will be reported,” she said. “We always know: buyer beware.”

Pierce was in support of the diversity of housing the development will bring to the county, especially in light of the county’s updated housing assessment noting a gap in units based on the region’s rapid growth.

Commissioner Dane Scalise was wholly on board and the first to say so.

“We need diversity of housing options and this is a location as a choice to provide a wide array,” he said. “There may be some increased noise and traffic. But most everything in New Hanover County is dealing with noise and traffic on a day-to-day basis. It’s the consequence of living in a highly sought after place.”

“I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a lot of blasting in Pine Valley,” Zapple quipped in response. “The extreme end of it is what caught my eye.”

Zapple was also concerned about the reduction in available industrial space throughout the county for potential future businesses.

“We do indeed not only need a variety of houses but we also need a variety of businesses,” he said.

According to planning director Rebekah Roth said Wilmington Business Development — responsible for recruiting economic development to the region overseeing negotiations for space at area industrial parks — concerns were not voiced by anyone per losing the industrial zoning in the area.

Due to anticipated traffic generated from the development — 3,4210 average daily trips — developers are required to install a traffic signal at the I-140 east ramp and Holly Shelter Road intersection, along with creating additional turn lanes in the area.

The traffic impact analysis reported the residential complex would generate 171 fewer peak morning trips and 73 fewer peak evening trips than if the zoning remained industrial at full build-out.

The county is paying to install water and sewer connections to the northern portion of the county; its lines will run right alongside the development for future connection.

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