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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pender County aims to balance growth along US-17 while preserving its rural roots

Aside from transportation improvements including the support of the Hampstead Bypass and limited commercial and mixed-use growth along US 17, Pender County's Land Use Plan aims to preserve rural and agricultural land.

Pender County's 2018 Land Use Plan will be voted on early next week. The plan includes continued and concentrated growth along US-17 and the preservation of rural and agricultural land in the remainder of the county. The above graphic is a map of future land use in the county, color-coded by the included key.(Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Pender County)
Click to enlarge: Pender County’s 2018 Land Use Plan will be voted on early next week. The plan includes continued and concentrated growth along US-17 and the preservation of rural and agricultural land in the remainder of the county. The above graphic is a map of future land use in the county, color-coded by the included key. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Pender County)

PENDER COUNTY—Pender County is looking to balance rapid growth in the east with its rural and agricultural roots in the west.

While its neighbors in Brunswick and New Hanover County appear to have an open arms approach to incoming development, Pender County’s 2018 Land Use Plan includes several provisions that would limit the extent of growth, if approved.

RELATED: Pender County planning department revisiting comprehensive plan

Only 2 percent of the county’s total acreage is incorporated within municipal limits, but the area is still growing. The mostly rural county has a population of nearly 60,000 residents, expected to increase by close to 40,000 to a total population of nearly 100,000 by the year 2045.

Pender County’s Land Use Plan has been in the works since 2016 and has undergone several public input meetings last summer in Penderlea, Surf City, Hampstead, Rocky Point, Maple Hill, Currie, and Burgaw. Officials based the Land Use Plan, the county’s first since 2010, on insight from residents gathered during those meetings. 

On June 18, Pender County Commissioners could vote to approve the plan.


With Pender Commerce Park expanding, the Land Use Plan carves out space for future workforce housing along US-17. Future zoning districts regulations could be established that would “support a variety of housing options” near “primary employment centers” like the commerce park.

This option for workforce housing is in line with growth being confined to US-17 and US 117/210 in the eastern part of the county. In rural and agricultural areas, this kind of grwoth, as well as the expansion of water and sewer infrastructure services would continue to be “discouraged,” according to the plan.

According to the plan, county officials could establish a program to rezone rural areas with a base density of no more than one unit per three acres. This could increase property values and reduce the number of new units established.

Unlike its metropolitan neighbor in Wilmington, which has been steadily rezoning mobile home parks, Pender County is making strides to protect areas specifically designated for manufactured housing. Pender County’s Land Use Plan would continue to “provide areas exclusively for manufactured housing development.”

The plan would also discourage the conversion of existing single-family homes and neighborhoods into two or multi-family residential uses, regardless of where in the county those homes were located.

New codes

Even before moving to approve the updated Land Use Plan, Pender County has made strides to strengthen stormwater management code.

If the plan is approved, the county would continue establishing policies “more stringent” than current North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality requirements to prevent excess impervious surface area. Those are hard surfaced area that don’t allow water to absorb into the ground; impervious surfaces generate runoff, which can cause other issues.

Officials would also consider providing incentives for establishing vegetative buffers in new subdivisions along the river and discourage bulkhead installation along the estuarine shoreline. Bulkheads have been shown to damage the natural marsh and the county would aim to minimize further damage by discouraging their installation.


One of the highest priority items gained from the public input period of the Land Use Plan is improving broadband internet service.

The plan lays out the potential for officials to establish incentives for future developers to provide broadband internet access in underserved areas. A telecommunications committee may soon be formed to act as a liaison among residents, government and developers.

If Commissioners approve the plan, they would continue to “enthusiastically” support the construction of North Carolina Department of Transportation’s proposed Hampstead Bypass. The bypass would relieve pressure on Market Street in Wilmington and extend Military Cutoff Road. To date, only the first phase of the bypass has received funding, although the NCDOT still has plans to begin right-of-way property acquisition for the project’s second phase next year.

Review all of the Land Use Plan’s recommended action items in the proposed plan below.

Comprehensive Land Use Plan Adoption by Johanna Ferebee on Scribd

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