WILMINGTON — More than 400 new residential units can now be built off Gordon Road after County Commissioners Tuesday voted to approve a project planners opposed.
An 85-acre development known as The Landing at Lewis Creek Estates has been granted a rezoning request as well as a special use permit after New Hanover County Commissioners voted against the recommendations of county staff and the Planning Board, which had recommended rejecting the request.
The New Hanover County Planning Commission had voted 4-3 in opposition to the development, yet County Commission Chairman Woody White along with Commissioners Pat Kusek and Skip Watkins all felt the project should be allowed to proceed.
Commissioners Jonathan Barfield and Rob Zapple voted against allowing the development.
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The county staff had recommended denial of the request for several reasons but, primarily, the staff found that the proposed development was not in line with the county’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan.
The property was previously zoned for commercial use, one of the only commercially-zoned districts in that part of the city. The rest of the land in that area is zoned residential. This fact was among the reasons cited by both staff and the Planning Board as to why they recommended not allowing more parcels zoned residential in the area.
The County Commission’s approval will allow the property owner to place 236 single family homes as well as 192 apartments be built on the property.
According to Brad Schuler, of the Planning and Land Use Department, the possible increase of traffic required a traffic impact analysis, which was not ready for presentation at the meeting Tuesday evening.
Both Barfield and Schuler noted that there is another major apartment complex that has been approved almost directly across the street, which will also have an impact on traffic — an impact that has not been taken into account.
“We just can’t continue to approve these types of projects when the infrastructure is not there,” – Rob Zapple
The developer’s Attorney Michael Lee, of the Lee Law Firm, said the property was under contract for a decade. He said that the contract called for a large amount of retail space, as well as over 400 apartments. The development as currently proposed would have significantly less dwelling units than what was already planned, although the planned apartments would still have required county approval, he said.
Lee also argued that traffic in the area would be worse if the project is not built. He said that, without the development’s approval, traffic would be worse because of road improvements that are expected to follow the construction would not take place.
County staff said the county’s comprehensive plan categorized the property as a prime location for a mixed-use development, or retail options for residents already living in the area who now have to travel further to do their shopping.
Opposition from Zapple centered around the already congested Gordon Road corridor, which was scheduled for North Carolina Department of Transportation widening, but then was removed from the priority list.
“We just can’t continue to approve these types of projects when the infrastructure is not there,” Zapple said.
Commissioner Skip Watkins made the motion to approve the rezoning request, saying, “It meets the identified shortage (of) affordable housing.”
White and Watkins agreed with Lee, who said that, although this development will not include retail space, perhaps in the future there will be opportunities for the remaining parcels of land located in the mixed-use area.
A timeline for the start date of the project was not presented.
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