NEW HANOVER COUNTY — In case the influx in traffic on the roads around the region didn’t tip you off, the Cape Fear Region is steadily growing its population as more and more people decide to call the area home. But seeing as New Hanover County is one of the smallest in the state, land scarcity is an increasing problem.
As the county continues to attract new residents, that growth is expanding to the northern part of New Hanover — to areas like Porters Neck, Ogden, and Murrayville.
From new restaurants opening, like the brand new Slice of Life Pizza, a Wilmington favorite, to the neighborhood pub Seven Mile Post Pub, there seems to be a new interest in the area outside of the City of Wilmington limits.
New Hanover County Planning and Land Use Director Wayne Clark expects to see even more interest in these areas as time goes on. It all comes down to the amount of developable land, Clark said.
There is also something driving new development in New Hanover County, something that will likely have many long-term impacts on the area’s future — the newly approved zoning districts added to the county’s Unified Development Ordinance.
In what county staff called the ‘biggest change to zoning since the 1960s,’ these new districts give property owners the opportunity to rezone their land to allow for more dense development.
While the new zoning districts were approved by the Board of County Commissioners, the approval did not rezone any pieces of land, instead, it allowed property owners to request a rezoning — and just a little more than one month later the county has its first request.
The project known as Wrightsboro Commons has been in the works for more than a year, but earlier this month the Planning Board approved a rezoning request for the land to be rezoned Urban Mixed Use Zoning District — one of the newly approved districts.
The UMXZ district is similar to that of the City of Wilmington’s own mixed-use district and will allow the construction of mixed-use developments more easily.
The project previously required a conditional use permit to allow for the variety of uses it had planned — but it could be
“This project is consistent with the County’s Future Land Use Plan which identifies the area as Community Mixed-Use and General Residential, and it utilizes one of the newly approved zoning districts, UMXZ to create a truly small scale mixed-use development. This conditional rezoning will allow the applicant to construct a walkable rental housing community blended into the heart of Wrightsboro’s commercial area,” according to the rezoning request submitted by the developer.
Providing affordable housing options has been an issue for developers as well as local governments who are unable to require affordable housing options.
One of the biggest concerns when it comes to project costs and constructing affordable housing is the ever-increasing cost of land in the county and the relatively low density allowed by previous zoning districts. But by allowing these new districts that permit increased density, it might be possible for developers to construct more affordable housing while still making a profit.
Market Street corridor
Slice of Life, Starbucks, retail, apartments, and a hotel all underway in Ogden-Porters Neck area
One region of the northern part of the county has seen unprecedented growth — the Market North corridor — from Military Cutoff Road north on Market Street.
New apartments are currently being built at Amberleigh Shores Phase II — a nearly 600-unit apartment complex off Market Street.
A new Starbucks Coffee is also being constructed across from Publix and a new retail center, the Bailey Shops on Market, between Ogden and Porters Neck.
Clark said he expects more requests to rezone land in the county under the new guidelines as more developers take an interest in undeveloped land.
Slice of Life
Slice of Life opened its newest location in Porters Neck Monday located at 155 Porters Neck Road.
It is the fourth location of the local-favorite pizza joint that has been ranked number one pizza in Wilmington by Encore Magazine multiple times since 2005 as well as ‘Best Late Night Eatery.”
Slice of Life boasts a full pizza menu along with a range of other options including nachos, tacos, or a salad. It also carries a variety of beers and wines.
The new location also offers plenty of outdoor seating which is covered by a roof. The restaurant is the first of what appears to be several outparcels available for rent.
Slice of Life can be found online to see a full menu and any events planned.
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