Tuesday, August 9, 2022

New Hanover County Planning Board will hear rezoning request for 52-acre Porters Neck development

Conceptual plan for the proposed development in Porters Neck. (Port City Daily image / New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — After a pair of contentious meetings with neighbors, the developer of a major residential project will get a hearing by the county’s planning board next month.

Related: Rezoning request filed, community meeting slated for 52-acre Porters Neck development

Logan Developers, Inc., recently filed the conditional rezoning for the property at 8300 Market Street with New Hanover County. The 52.39-acre property is currently zoned for mostly low-density single-family residences, although a 14-acre portion is zoned as agricultural property.

The proposed development would require the county’s approval of rezoning to a” Conditional Residential Multi-Family Low-Density District.” If approved, the development will feature 384 units, including 62 single-family homes, 17 duplexes (with 34 total units), and 288 apartment units. This is about a 5% reduction in density from the developer’s initial proposal, which featured fewer single-family homes and more apartments, with 406 total units.

Concerns from neighboring residents

Those reductions were intended to address concerns from nearby residents. However, when the developer held back-to-back meetings in Hampstead last week, residents continued to voice serious concerns, including overcrowding at nearby schools and insufficient roadway infrastructure in the area.

Traffic was a particular concern, in part because — while the project has a Market Street address — it’s actually not connected to Highway 17. Instead, the property is bordered by Old Market Street, a dead-end stub road that doesn’t connect to Market Street proper. The property is also bordered by Tibbys Drive and Shiraz Way, which are undivided residential roads — local residents expressed concern that these residential side roads can’t handle the additional traffic.

The developer addressed some of these concerns in its application, including the expectation that the Military Cutoff bypass will alleviate a considerable amount of traffic.

“Traffic Analysis shows Porters Neck Road is currently a Level of Service A road since the roundabout construction and that after the proposed project is built (using the previously proposed plan with 406 units instead of the current, reduced plan), the roundabout will experience a 1-second delay from current conditions at peak hour. And the Porters Neck/Market intersection will add approximately 2 cars at peak hour.  However, after the Military Cutoff bypass is complete (anticipated 2022 prior to this project build out), approximately 9,000 cars/day are anticipated to be routed away from this intersection at Porters Neck Road.  The intersection after bypass construction is anticipated to operate in quicker movements from either pre- or post-project development,” according to the developer’s application.

According to New Hanover County planning staff, the NCDOT and Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) are still reviewing the developer’s Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), and final roadway improvements that would accompany the development have not been determined yet.

The developer’s TIA, it should be noted, was based on the initial 406-unit proposal. The TIA calls for an average daily increase of 3,220 trips over a 24-hour weekday period. You can find the full TIA here.

What the new zoning will allow

A proposed 52-acre development in northern Porters Neck would require a conditional rezoning permit to allow more than double the currently allowed density. (Port City Daily photo / Google)
A proposed 52-acre development in northern Porters Neck would require a conditional rezoning permit to allow more than double the currently allowed density. (Port City Daily photo / Google)

Developers are requesting that the project area be rezoned as multi-family residential; the requested RMF-L zone is one of five new residential districts approved by the county over the summer, as part of a long-overdue overhaul of New Hanover County’s unified development ordinance. County planning officials, along with their Wilmington counterparts, have suggested that allowing denser and more flexible development is one way to encourage affordable housing.

While rezoning the property will allow the developers to build more than twice as many units as current zoning would permit, it would not max out the allowable density of the RMF-L zoning, if approved.

The allowable density under the current R-15 zoning would be around 152 single-family homes or 91 duplexes (with 182 units). That’s based on the 52.3-acre size of the total parcel, and a minimum lot size of 15,000 square feet for single-family and 25,000 square feet for duplexes. The allowable density under RMF-L residential multi-family low-density zoning, which the developers are requesting, is between 520 and 530 units, depending on the configuration of apartment, duplex, and single-family buildings.

Developers will make their case to the planning board on Thursday, December 5 at 6 p.m. at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse, 24 North Third Street. The meeting is open to the public and, like all conditional rezonings, there will be a public hearing to allow neighboring residents to weigh in on the proposal. It’s worth noting that, unlike Special Use Permits, rezonings do not involve quasi-judicial hearings, and residents will not be bound to the more strict requirements imposed on SUP hearings.

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