NEW HANOVER COUNTY — When a community meeting for a newly planned mixed-use development located off Market Street was first announced, details on the project were scant. Now, as developers look for a favorable review from the New Hanover County Planning Board, more information has been released for the project known as Middle Sound West.
Consisting of 288 residential units and around 9,100 square feet of office or retail space, the mixed-use development would be predominantly residential in use — even though it is currently zoned for commercial uses. That is why Tribute Properties, the development team behind the project, is requesting a special use permit (SUP) to allow the introduction of residential purposes in a commercial district.
The size of the property for the development project is roughly 30 acres, however, the special use permit is only being applied to about half of that.
“The portion of the parcel not included in this special use permit request will allow opportunities for future B-2 commercial development intended to complement both the commercial and residential components of the proposed development,” according to the SUP request submitted to the county.
Special use permits are a tool used by the county to allow for development in different zoning districts that would not typically be permitted.
In order to gain approval, applicants must prove four different points.
- The use will not materially endanger the public health or safety if located where proposed and approved;
- The use meets all required conditions and specifications of the Zoning Ordinance;
- The use will not substantially injure the value of adjoining or abutting property, or that the use is a public necessity;
- The location and character of the use if developed according to the plan as submitted and approved will be in harmony with the area in which it is to be located and in general conformity with the County’s adopted plans for growth and development.
Less intense than by-right
With limited vacant land in New Hanover County and ever-increasing amounts of traffic, residents are often wary of new development. But according to the request, if approved, the new uses would actually have less impact than if they built something ‘by right’ (i.e. construction allowed under the current zoning).
“The subject property is already zoned general B-2 Highway Business District, without conditions. The general B-2 zoning on this property allows for larger and more intensive commercial uses by-right than currently proposed under the Special Use Permit proposal,” according to the applicant.
There is another caveat that Tribute points out as a benefit for the area and less intense development.
” … All commercial uses under the special use permit are restricted to residential and B-1 commercial uses. In this regard, the special use permit request is effectively similar to downzoning a portion of the property from B-2 to B-1,” the request states.
This would be a significant change since B-2 properties allow for the construction of mini-warehouses, RV storage, auto dealerships, and more. If approved these uses could no longer be built on the property.
Less intense means less traffic
According to a traffic impact analysis completed by the Davenport engineering firm, by allowing the special use permit traffic impacts would be reduced than if left B-2. Of course, the traffic impacts of undeveloped land are nil — but at the rate development is going in New Hanover County, the parcels would likely not remain vacant forever.
“Under the existing B-2 zoning, there are many potential commercial land uses that could be developed by right on this 15-acre property or it could be developed as a Big Box Retail Store(s) or Retail Center. As a conservative approach, we assumed a mix of retail, office, and restaurant uses totaling approximately 116,000 SF. With this mixture of uses, internal capture reductions were included as well to be conservative in the trip generation comparison. In general, the results indicate that this potential conservative “By-Right Use” would generate approximately 3 times more traffic, and this could even be higher depending on the actual size and land uses developed on the property,” according to Davenport.
A soggy situation
The Ogden area has been notorious for flooding, in part, due to the massive amount of homes and development in the area.
“We understand the concern of the community in regard to stormwater detention, in that vein, we are designing the stormwater facilities to handle up to and including the 100-year event. This event exceeds the county requirement of the 25-year event, in addition, all stormwater on the site will be conveyed into our stormwater facilities, therefore any stormwater that flows into the northern ditch/ market street today will be now conveyed to our stormwater facility,” according to a letter from Paramounte Engineering, the engineering company for the project.
“For water quality, our basin is 60% larger than the required by NCDEQ, in addition, [we] will be providing pretreatment measures to enhance the water quality in our treatment system. In conclusion, we believe that the stormwater system will be enhanced by this project since the stormwater flow for all storms will be less than its current condition,” the letter concludes.
General favor for the project from staff, not from residents
County staff responded favorably to the project provided the developer include the following conditions:
- The project’s stormwater facilities must be designed to accommodate a 100-year storm event.
- A 6-foot-tall solid wood fence shall be installed within the buffer yard located along the northwestern property line which abuts the Jacobs Ridge neighborhood.
- As proposed and agreed to by the applicant, a 10-foot multi-use path shall be installed along the site’s frontage on Lendire Road and be extended south along the road so that it would connect to the future multi-use path to be installed by NCDOT near Ogden Business Lane as part of the Military Cutoff extension project (U-4751). Installation of the multi-use path shall be coordinated with the County and NCDOT and be constructed in accordance with NCDOT’s standards. The applicant is not required to obtain additional right-of-way in order for the multi-use path to be extended to the future multi-use path to be installed by NCDOT near Ogden Business Lane.
But it appears, at least some residents have a strong opinion about the proposed project and are not in favor of the county granting the approval.
Included in the county’s staff report are emails from the public commenting on the proposed project — not one of the emails was in favor of approving it.
Concerns with the already massive amount of traffic on Market Street along with the wetland nature of the property were the biggest concerns of residents.
With the recent development boom in the Ogden area, roads are congested especially during morning and afternoon commutes — but as noted, if the property were developed by-right, its impacts could be much more significant on traffic.
The Planning Board was supposed to meet on Sept. 5, but Hurricane Dorian had other plans for the county and the meeting was canceled.
The items from the September Planning Board meeting will likely be heard at the October meeting.
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