Monday, April 15, 2024

Leland seeks to fully utilize commercial land by altering ordinances

Town of Leland’s planning board is recommending the town council amend the code of ordinances to ensure no more homes are built in commercially zoned areas, in an effort to push job growth. (Port City Daily/Copeland Jacobs)

LELAND — The Town of Leland’s planning board is recommending the town council amend the code of ordinances to ensure no more homes are built in commercially zoned areas, in an effort to push job growth.

READ MORE: Leland to consider 70% property tax rate 

“It’s been allowed in the past that you can build a single-family home on a commercial property,” town manager David Hollis said to PCD, though he did not know why this had been permitted in the first place. 

Leland’s planning manager Ashli Barefoot traced it back to the town’s first ordinances, passed in 1990, shortly after the town’s incorporation in 1989. 

“When the town first created their zoning districts, they wanted to zone certain areas as commercial,” Barefoot told PCD, “but they didn’t want to create a lot of legal non-conforming uses, so they made residential uses permitted in commercial zones.”

Barefoot said the amendments were brought up within the last month or two as a part of routine reviews of the code of ordinances and were recommended unanimously by the planning board. The town council will hold a public hearing to sign off on approval. 

If passed, the changes would be consistent with the Leland 2045 comprehensive land use plan. It would promote a sense of place by clearly delineating between commercial and residential areas and meet economic guidelines.

Barefoot explained this particular revision is being undertaken to fully utilize commercial land.

“What we realized is that there’s a limited amount of commercial land available within the town,” Barefoot said. “So we want to make sure the commercial land is being utilized to its full potential.”  

Of Leland’s 17,408 acres, 5% — or around 872 acres — is zoned for commercial, office, and industrial purposes. Leland planner Javier Barrera said at the meeting 12% or 105 of the 872 acres with commercial zoning are occupied by homes.

If passed, the amendment would apply to specific zoning types including general commercial business district, regional business district, commercial trucking district, and office and industrial.

Barrera made the case for revising the code of ordinances with the new text amendment at the Feb. 28 planning board meeting. He argued its need due to the economic impact it could have on the community.

“Residential units, they do provide facilities to the town; however, they do not contribute to the job or economic growth,” Barrera said. 

Barrera indicated the homes built on commercially zoned land along Village Road Northeast as an example. 

“This land was supposed to have a high development potential in accordance with the future land use map, however, it cannot be fully utilized with such uses as permitted in those districts,” Barrera said at the meeting, “Commercial districts are supposed to generate revenue and contribute to job creation.” 

Port City Daily reached out to Barrera after the meeting, but he did not want to comment. 

This isn’t the first time the Leland town government has given a closer look to Village Road. According to a 2020 Wilmington Business Journal article, the town’s efforts to boost the “older business corridor” on Village Road was to create a proper downtown for the community. 

The latest amendment is the next chapter in a long and complicated tale of two halves of a town. Leland is a whole divided into two parts; as referred to by many locals, “Old Leland” consists of Village Road and the aptly named Old Fayetteville Road, while “New Leland” is located off U.S. 74 onto Highway 17. This has become the town center that has built up over the last decade with commercial and residential units.

While New Leland has experienced meteoric expansion and growth, Old Leland has not been so fortunate. 

The evidence of New Leland’s growth is written in quite a few shopping centers from Waterford to Brunswick Forest. They’re marked by a Walmart Supercenter, a Lowes, Chick-fil-A, and the Leland Cultural Arts Center. 

Of recent businesses, a 7-Eleven set up shop, as well as Cookout, in the vicinity of Leland Town Center, while Mannkind Brewing opened last year at 9600 Ploof Road #7. Just last month Chipotle was reported to have preliminary plans for a restaurant on Highway 17 near the Leland Lowes Foods at 1152 East Cutlar Crossing.

Located on the same road as the town sign, Old Leland’s roster of businesses include a Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Waffle House and a group of fast-food chains. Currently, the Habitat for Humanity in Leland will have a 15,000-square-foot building constructed by McKinley Building of Wilmington. This new store will be located next door to their current ReStore on 414 Village Road. PCD reached out to Habitat for Humanity to find out when this project would be finished and did not receive a reply by press. 

PCD asked if the town government was attempting to bring the Village Road area up to the standards of Leland Town Center, but Hollis said no. Instead Village Road is supposed to have a “downtown feel,” he added.

Some property owners in Leland spoke at the planning board meeting, voicing concerns that the new text amendment would restrict their ability to construct what they want on their land. According to Barrera’s presentation during the meeting, the amendment would only prohibit construction of homes and other residential structures like condominiums and townhouses. 

Regarding other structures a homeowner might reasonably want to build on their property, the code of ordinances allows accessory structures such as a shed.

If the amendment is approved by the town council, homes in the commercially zoned areas can remain on their properties, and will be considered legal but non-conforming, while construction of new residential structures on commercially zoned land will require rezoning the land to residential. 

[Ed. Note: The article has been updated to correct the spelling Javier Barrera’s last name and updated to properly reflect what happens to owners’ homes on commercially zoned land. PCD regrets the errors.]

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