Update 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 — Pender County Planning Director Kyle Breuer clarified that the applicants were not requesting a rezoning of the properties, but instead an update to the county’s future land use map.
A future land use classification looks at what future development patterns may look like and sets the standard for future zoning classifications, according to Breuer. This amendment would set the applicants up for a future rezoning request.
“That’s basically what they’re looking at — over the next 10, 20, or 30 years, what may be best suited for that property,” Breuer said.
HAMPSTEAD — Land along Highway 17 in northern Hampstead is set to be rezoned from a Low Density Residential zoning district to Neighborhood Mixed Use, which will allow for higher density commercial development on the property.
The 47.5 acres of land is located on the east side of Highway 17 approximately 1,000 feet north of Topsail Plantation Drive — about five miles north of Hampstead’s central business district at the intersection of Highway 17 and 210.
The zoning district is “primarily dedicated to non-residential uses that provide services, entertainment, and amenities to residents within a three-mile radius,” according to the county’s future land-use plan.
A public hearing is scheduled for this Monday, after which county commissioners will vote on the reclassification.
The county’s planning board initially tabled the request in early August, directing planning department staff to draft a street plan for the property and to continue its work on developing road access standards as part of its overall Unified Development Ordinance Update project. The board then approved the request on November 5.
An increase of 8 units per acre
The proposed access standards have been established to limit driveways along Highway 17 and other major corridors throughout the county to “preserve mobility along those corridors” and increase safety.
Property owners originally requested the land to be rezoned to a Regional Mixed Use classification, but upon agreement with planning staff they modified their proposal to request a Neighborhood Mixed Use classification due to its “intent to be a resource for neighboring residents at a density and intensity that is compatible with existing and proposed low-density single-family neighborhoods that surround these areas,” according to a planning staff report of the proposal.
However, the report also states that the subject property, along with much of the Highway 17 corridor north of the future Hampstead Bypass’ northern interchange, is currently designated as either Low- or Medium-Density Residential classification to prevent the “strip” commercial development seen today.
“This was done in order to preserve the corridor’s effectiveness for local and through traffic and to avoid the ‘strip’ commercial development pattern seen throughout much of Hampstead today,” according to the planning staff report.
The Future Land Use Map directs much of the intense commercial and residential growth to the portion of the Highway 17 corridor that will be bypassed in order to take advantage of the reduction in traffic created by the bypass, according to the report.
Nonetheless, the rezoning would allow for a mix of commercial and higher-density residential development.
“This future land use category should be composed of a mixture of integrated commercial, office, institutional, and single-family residential uses” and is not intended to be “solely reserved for mixed use developments,” according to the report.
The county’s future land use plan recommends appropriate uses of the Neighborhood Mixed Use classification to include neighborhood-scale retail, restaurant, and office buildings; religious and educational institutions; and higher-density single-family residences. The future land use category is intended for commercial developments that serve as a resource and employment opportunity for nearby residents.
Three of the five parcels are currently included in the Cardinal Acres trailer park while the rest of the parcels are primarily vacant. The Topsail Greens and Wyndwater neighborhoods — the latter currently under construction — border the property to the south.
Preferred gross development of the land’s current zoning classification is two units per acre, while for Neighborhood Mixed Use it is up to 10 units per acre.
Overall, the county’s planning staff argues that the Neighborhood Mixed Use future classification “supports development that still provides a resource for nearby residents for employment, goods, and services, while also establishing a preferred growth scenario that is still compatible with the current and future low density residential development that surrounds the subject properties.”
Wetlands, a ‘high priority’ to conserve
FEMA Flood Insurance Rate maps show a flood hazard area that covers portions of the five parcels of land in the subject property.
“Multiple areas of preliminary wetlands exist throughout nearly all of the subject parcels,” according to the planning staff’s report.
The property was evaluated in relation to data from the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission on a scale of 1-10, with higher numbers signifying a more prevalent presence of “rare, abundant, and diverse species and habitats” and a higher priority for preservation due to the land’s ecological value.
The highest assessment ranking found within the subject property was a score of 6, covering most of the parcels between Highway 17 to the west, Topsail Greens Drive to the south, the Wyndwater subdivision to the east, and Amanda Lane to the north.
Owners of the property include Toni Castoro, Jeffrey L. Morris, and Eugene Smelik.
The public hearing will take place during the monthly Pender Board of County Commissioners meeting, which will begin at 4 p.m. on Monday, December 2, at the county’s main administrative building inside the Public Assembly Room (805 S. Walker Street).
It is the first of four public hearings set to begin at 7 p.m.
Mark Darrough can be reached at Mark@Localvoicemedia.com or (970) 413-3815