WILMINGTON — Wilmington’s Planning Commission has voted against the development of 183 apartment units and 26 townhomes off South 17th Street – now the future of the project falls on City Council. But the property in question has a history of rezoning requests – as well as resistance from the community.
Most recently, the property had plans for a Lidl grocery store which fell through after the grocer announced it would not build the store at the location.
A rezoning request was submitted for 10.5-acres of currently vacant land located at 4301 and 4355 South 17th Street in Wilmington. The property is currently zoned community business, and the applicant requested a rezoning to multiple-family medium-high density residential.
In 2012, a request to rezone the property to allow a 92-unit 55-and-over community to be built, but residents filed a protest petition which led to the project ultimately being denied.
In North Carolina prior to 2015, a protest petition was a tool residents could use to oppose projects in their neighborhood, Planning Director Glenn Harbeck said. Residents had the ability to file a petition against a planned zoning request and, if enough signatures were gathered, it would require a supermajority vote from the local governing body to approve.
According to the UNC School of Government, “The protest petition only applies to zoning map amendments. It most often arises when neighbors object to the rezoning of a parcel, but it also applies to creation and application of new overlay zoning districts. Prior to 2006 the statute also applied to text amendments. G.S. 160A-385(a)(1) was amended in 2005 to explicitly provide that the protest is applicable only to a zoning map change.”
That is what happened in 2012; Harbeck said City Council actually voted 5-2 in favor of the project in 2012, but due to the petition a supermajority vote of 6-1 was required for approval.
The power to file a protest petition was taken from citizens in 2015 when the N.C. General Assembly passed House Bill 201 which removed the right to file protests, renaming the section titled “Qualified Protests” to “Citizen Comments.”
Planning Commision vote
On Wednesday, residents of the area spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting voicing concerns of traffic increases, school burdens, and the lack of affordable housing options. Planning department staff, meanwhile, gave the project good marks overall.
Ultimately, the Planning Commission voted unanimously against the project denying the request 6-0.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Deb Hays said, “I feel like it didn’t wholly fit the comprehensive plan because I thought that this should be more of a mixed-use (development),” before voting against the project.
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