A group of residents from Dogwood Lakes challenged Surf City Council to prioritize the safety of their children, citing increased cut-through traffic that the proposed Surf City Crossing apartment complex would bring to the neighborhood’s narrow roads.
SURF CITY — The 346-unit Surf City Crossing luxury apartment complex has been tabled until developers can figure out another entrance to its property.
In response to residents’ concerns of cut-through traffic from U.S. 17 through the nearby Dogwood Lakes community, Councilman Jeremy Shugarts made a motion to postpone the apartment’s approval, seconded by Teresa Batts, which then carried through a unanimous vote from Council.
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“The city is growing and we’re inundated with a lot of developments, which is great. I think we’re all in favor of growth and these developments,” Shugarts said. “I am not opposed to the apartments — what I’m opposed to is using the other developments for pass-throughs.”
Mike Dickson of the Community Development Department showed an enlarged preliminary plat of the 14-building, 346-unit, 34-acre development to the audience. He said the Technical Review Committee “has found the project meets our requirements concerning fire code, policing issues, water and sewer specifications, streets, and the town’s zoning ordinance.”
The Planning Board unanimously approved a recommendation to approve the development plan on May 16. With last night’s vote, Mayor Doug Medlin said the development plan will be postponed to the council’s next meeting, which because of Fourth of July celebrations is on August 6. He said the plan will not be required to go back to the Planning Board during that time.
According to Dickson, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) estimated the development would produce daily average traffic of 1,560 cars. Combined with the 808 cars from the adjacent Terraces home development —approved by Council in January of 2018 and awaiting construction — this would total more than 2,300 additional cars from the two developments.
According to the preliminary plat, a new road would be built through the Terraces, connecting Dogwood Lakes to the Arbors community — 60-single family homes currently under construction — and to Alston Road, where the apartments would be built. Alston Road then exits onto N.C. 210, which would give traffic coming from Wilmington and Hampstead an alternative route into Surf City and Topsail Island.
Although Shugarts agreed that the majority of traffic will come from N.C. 210 near the Harris Teeter to the east of the property, he thought roughly 5 percent of the apartments’ residents would use the connections from U.S. 17 through the developments, adding more than 100 daily trips through these areas.
Additionally, Shugarts expected even more cut-through traffic from vehicles traveling from Wilmington or Hampstead wishing to avoid traffic at the U.S. 17 and N.C. 210 intersection. And the added traffic to Dogwood Lake’s narrow roads, where he said children frequently play, is a safety concern the city should avoid.
Some residents spoke of the Planning Board’s need to apply more due diligence toward traffic patterns and entranceways concerning new developments, echoed by Councilmember Nelva Albury.
“I want development to come, but the entrances have got to be planned before they sell a lot,” Albury said. “That would satisfy everybody in the neighborhood.”
‘Hold developers accountable’
Dogwood Lakes resident Jim Conway, who also chairs the town’s Beautification Committee, said he opposed the current plan’s traffic flow because it would endanger his own daughter and “all the children that live in our neighborhood.”
“Those streets are extremely narrow,” Conway said. “Our parking challenges are immense. This apartment complex is something we were not against, it was just a wake-up call for us. It was a wake-up call that we could not sustain that kind of traffic.”
He called on more due diligence to be carried out regarding the connection to these neighborhoods before any development proceeds.
“We want to see Surf City grow, we want to see Surf City prosper,” Conway said. “But there’s nothing more important than the safety of our children.”
Although Shugarts said last night’s decision to delay the development’s approval was an example of Mayor Doug Medlin and the council proactively responding to residents’ concerns, he also believed the planning board should “hold these developers accountable” and be pushed to examine all options when developing a piece of property.
Evolve Companies, a property management company based in Greensboro that specializes in the development of conventional and student housing properties, is seeking approval of the site plan.
“I would like to see less rubber-stamping in the future and more diverging of the projects and how it affects everybody in involved,” Shugarts said.
Councilman Donald Helms said that although another exit for the apartment complex was crucial for the safety of the children at Dogwood Lakes, he disagreed with residents who called the roads too narrow or that increased traffic would present dangers to school buses that routinely pass through the neighborhood.
“I know for a fact that a school bus and a car can pass on that road,” Helms said. “[W]e can’t blame the roads because the roads are wide enough.”
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com