Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Wyndwater win: Developer approved for revisions, despite pushback in year-long battle

Wyndwater will build 76 townhomes and commercial frontage alongside the Topsail Greens community and U.S. 17 following an approval by Pender County Planning Board. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti Willis)

HAMPSTEAD — A disgruntled audience began yelling at town officials last week upon voting on the approval of development revisions that have been under scrutiny for more than a year.

READ MORE: Third time’s a charm? Hampstead’s Wyndwater developer submits updated plan, again

“You sold out!” and “Somebody paid someone off!” they exclaimed.

After being denied twice last year, the developers of Wyndwater earned a victory, to the dismay of neighboring communities.

On Aug. 1, the Pender County Planning Board approved revisions to a master plan allowing townhomes to be built adjacent to Topsail Greens. The number of units had already been approved in its master development plan a decade ago, but the location had been altered.

Last year, applicant Mike Pollak — on behalf of property owners Signature Topsail NC — submitted a request to the Pender County planning board asking for three specific changes to its already approved plan.

  • Removal of property, considered “phase 10,” from the plan entirely; the three parcels are under different ownership now
  • Reduce the number of townhomes slated for “phase 11” from 76 to 56 and increase the amount of commercial frontage on U.S.  17 from 1.6 acres to 4.3 acres
  • Add 60 townhomes to “phase 7,” which was listed as future development; the units are being shifted from phase 10 and the reduction in phase 11. Phase 7 will also include 2.66 acres of commercial space, with 12,800 square feet of medical offices

While the number of dwellings being built did not change, the location of the units is being shifted to both the north and south of Topsail Plantation Drive. The new build-out will abut more than 50 already established residences.

The townhomes are slated to be sandwiched between Topsail Greens and Champion drives, with a sliver of Topsail Plantation Drive running through the property.

The planning board denied the request June 7, 2022. Pollak appealed to the board of adjustment, which also turned down a chance to reverse the denial in September 2022.

According to Pender County planning director Daniel Adams, there is no material change to the plan Pollak submitted last year, except for a more detailed stormwater design, as requested by the planning board.

Current residents living in houses within Topsail Greens have spoken in opposition to increasing the number of units within the almost 40-acre property. Almost all have indicated the development will lead to increased flooding on their already easily waterlogged properties.

Based on data submitted by GSP Consulting president Gary Pape, the new stormwater design will lead to a decrease in stormwater runoff, eventually improving flooding in the overall area.

In Pender County’s unified development ordinance, a development cannot cause an increase in runoff by more than 10%. Based on Pape’s calculation, the plan they have in place, with larger retention ponds and better drainage, will lessen runoff from 21.61 cubic feet per second to 2.83 — an 87% decrease.

Staff recommended the revisions, stating they aligned with the comprehensive land use plan by providing a variety of housing types, preserving open space (36 acres total, twice what is required), and installing pedestrian infrastructure.

Pollak has also agreed to double the tree mitigation requirements. Instead of planting two trees for every tree cut down, he will  replant four for each removed.

Already knowing the complaints lined up during the public hearing, Pollak prompted his opening speech, ahead of resident input, acknowledging their concerns.

“The biggest thing I would like to point out, there’s no secret there, is no existing stormwater drainage either on the piece of golf course [remaining] or the adjoining subdivision,” Pollak said. “You’re going to see pictures of water standing in place; we get that, but this is going to be a substantial improvement to existing problems that are there.”

He plans to build three retention ponds, twice the size requirement by the county’s standards.

More than a dozen speakers — some representing a handful of neighbors as well — took to the podium to share photos, concerns and express flat out anger.

“I don’t think he is ever doing anything he says he’s going to do,” resident Jon Barfield said of Pollak, referring to the engineering work done in 2015.

“How can we trust them to do the right thing when they’re had five years and allowed our properties to flood and they do nothing?” Mike Linton asked. “We have no rights, no protection, no voice, nothing.”

Some residents accused Pollak of draining a pond, in turn harming wildlife and reducing areas for runoff water to flow. Joy Stees indicated some property owners living in Topsail Greens received letters last summer to sell their land.

“It’s an attempt to remove residents from their homes and an effort to take over the land,” she said. “We need the support of Pender County to protect us from money-hungry people willing to satisfy their aspirations from out of state buying hopefuls.”

Mario Pinierio asked where the money will come from for all the extra resources needed — police, fire, schools — to accommodate more residents. The planning board clarified the number of units planned has already been approved and did not play into the revision decisions.

Member Norman Teachy reiterated the sentiment during board discussion.

“We can’t tell them, ‘No you can’t build this now,’” he said. “They own this property and it’s permitted. We understand the frustration, we do.”

Many spoke about the increase in traffic, laughing in disgust when Adams explained U.S. 17 is not maxed out on capacity.

Currently, there are roughly 36,000 cars traveling the roadway daily, with a capacity to handle 44,678.

Pollak addressed some of the residents’ comments but also said he was not going to run down each one.

“A lot of people spoke as if they were an expert,” Pollak said. “The process from here requires many experts to do their job and address everything they talked about.”

He also said many comments were not factual. Pollak said despite what someone said, he will not be building on current sewer pipes, a delineation from the U.S. Army Corps said the area was not wetlands and he rejected someone’s dig at him that they talked about issues and he ignored them. Though sympathetic, he noted he owns the property and has the right to build on it.

“I dispute the fact and resent the fact some of the things said tonight about my character,” Pollak added.

Planning board member Jeff Beaudoin pointed to a pamphlet from the Topsail Greens Homeowners Association showing flooding photos dating back to 2006.

“This has been going on for a long time,” Beaudoin said. “I can’t see that recent development, it could have made it worse, but I can’t imagine it being much worse than these pictures.”

The board unanimously voted to approve the revisions.

Catch up on previous coverage of the Wyndwater revision denials:

Wyndwater developer’s appeal continued so residents’ attorney can be present

Developer submits Wyndwater appeal, in hopes to reverse planning board decision

Pender County residents, planning board show strong opposition to Wyndwater development revision

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