WILMINGTON — When developers planned a new Publix-anchored shopping center in Ogden they faced a grassroots effort from the community to preserve as many of the massive oak trees on the land. Now, the trees are once again at the center of another request by the developer — but this time, the City of Wilmington has preempted concerns with a request to zone a small parcel of land at the site as ‘community business,’ a conditional district.
A small piece of the property located at 7162 Market Street was recently annexed into the City of Wilmington — while it does appear to be part of the Ogden Marketplace development, it has gone through several different owners including the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
“The parcel involved in this request was a gas and convenience food store prior to 2015. This parcel was purchased by North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on 10/20/2017 to allow the construction improvements to the intersection of Market Street, Middle Sound Loop Road, and Lendire Road. On March 26, 2018, the remnants of the former gas station property were sold to Halpern Ogden, LLC … from NCDOT due to the intersection improvements being completed,” according to the initial zoning request made to City Council on Tuesday.
The property sits at the corner of Middle Sound Loop Road and Market Street and is just 0.11-acres in size and on Tuesday night, the City Council approved its rezoning — with some conditions.
Aesthetics and preservation
According to Associate Planner Jeff Walton, city staff sees this piece of land as an important focal point to the entire development and as such, has worked with the developer to make sure it aesthetically meets specific standards.
“We feel like the intersection of Middle Sound and Market Street is really important and that this is kind of the crown jewel as you approach the commercial project,” Walton said.
The buildings will be held to a higher standard when it comes to its facade with the city requiring glazed windows opposed to simply a concrete block exterior.
All three large oak trees on the land are also going to be preserved, he said.
Tree preservation concerns
Michael Werner, a local advocate for the preservation of trees in the area (and one of the driving voices behind a recent movement against the demolition of several large oaks located just down the street) addressed City Council and voiced his concerns for the future of the trees.
The first issue Werner brought up was the size of the project. The plans call to put three retail stores on a parcel of land a little more than 1/10 of an acre, he said.
“The problem is the trees. When you look at trees, were not just looking at what you see above ground, the majority of the tree is below ground and we have to protect the roots … Because the property has been built all the way around these trees they are in danger,” Werner said.
Also as seen with other developments, even if the trees are left in place the paving over of permeable surfaces can cause trees to die since their access to water is paved over.
Werner asked the city to reconsider the size of the development as well as to require some aesthetic protections on the site to shield it from the street view.
After discussing the concerns, city council decided it would require the developer to work with the city arborist to collaborate and ensure the safety of the trees and approved the initial zoning request.
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