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Monday, May 27, 2024

Hooker Road development proposal heads to Planning Commission again, neighbors oppose project

After the first attempt to rezone the property was denied by the city's Planning Commission, the landowner hopes this new attempt will pass and allow him to construct more than 80 single-bedroom units.

A rezoning request along with special use permit is heading back to city officials (Port City Daily/File)
A rezoning request along with special use permit is heading back to city officials. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — Developers are not giving up on a rezoning request for an existing mobile home park located off Hooker Road. Instead, they’re pushing ahead with a proposal to create a denser, 86-lot development despite poor reviews from Wilmington city staff as well as a previous denial by the Planning Commission.

Initially, plans were submitted for 106 townhomes; when the request was unanimously denied by the Planning Commission, the developer resubmitted plans for an 86-lot development that will consist of 86 one bedroom detached “cottages.”

However, planning staff is not eager to see the request approved as it is not consistent with the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan.

“The proposed rezoning is not consistent with the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan growth strategies for this area and conflicts with the policies for infill development within an existing residential neighborhood. Redevelopment should be compatible with the existing residential neighborhood. The site is located within an established low-density, single-family neighborhood. The existing R-15, Residential District typically yields roughly 3 units per acre and the proposed R-5, Residential District allows for nearly 9 units per acre,” according to a staff report.

Related: Hooker Road development resubmitted to city after initial denial of rezoning request in January

The request is actually twofold consisting of a rezoning request as well as a special use permit request — but thanks to a vote from City Council last month, the Planning Commission will not have any say in the approval or denial of the special use permit.

That is why during the April meeting of the Planning Commission the developer requested a continuance until May, which was granted.

Howard Penton III is the owner of the property and the applicant for the rezoning request, he has owned the mobile home park for several years, according to neighbors opposing the request.

Residents push back

Neighbors are opposing the request to allow a high-density development in an R-5 district (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wilmington)
Neighbors are opposing the request to allow high-density development in an R-5 district (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wilmington)

The neighbors of the proposed rezoning are less than enthused about the potential of a high-density development being built next to multiple R-15 areas.

“As homeowners in this residential neighborhood area, we all purchased knowing Timberlynn Village was there and accepting that fact. We also knew that the zoning was R-15 and when and if it changed, the zoning would provide for another residential community. On the other hand, when Mr. Penton made his investment, he also knew the zoning was R-15 and should have had no reasonable expectation that the zoning would be changed in the future, yet he still decided to take the risk and invest,” Greg Reed, a homeowner and neighbor of the property in question wrote in an email.

David Cummings, another neighbor expressed his concerns with the request. Cummings, who lives in the neighborhood directly adjacent to the property has concerns with the density of the project and the fact that while the cottages are labeled as “single-family units” they are actually just detached apartments.

“His [Penton’s] request to rezone from R-15 to R-5, and then get approval on a Special Use Permit(SUP), which will further relax the requirements of the R-5, amounts to him getting approval to build apartments, regardless of the official language. These are free-standing, 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 700-sq-ft units, hardly what anyone would call a ‘single family development.’ This is an end-run around his original proposal, which was denied,” Reed wrote in the email.

There has been plenty of pushback from residents in the area during the community meetings hosted by the developer, Cummings said. More than 100 residents came out to oppose the project during the first community meeting, he said.

As many have learned in Wilmington, going up against a developer, especially for a special use permit request, which is quasi-judicial, is difficult which is why a group of residents decided to hire an attorney to speak for them, Cummings said.

It will ultimately be up to the Planning Commission along with City Council to decide on the fate of the property.

The Wilmington Planning Commission will hear the request for the rezoning on May 1 in City Council’s chambers at 6 p.m.


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