Tuesday, May 24, 2022

After public pressure, sand mine in Hampstead tabled indefinitely

HAMPSTEAD — After months of growing opposition from nearby residents and parents of Topsail School students, national developer Jamestown Properties was granted its request to the Pender County Planning Board to table a proposed sand mine project in Hampstead indefinitely.

Another project proposed for a portion of Jamestown’s 561-acre property that sits along Highway 17 — a shopping mall called Market Place at the Preserve — was also tabled indefinitely, but this time on the recommendation of Pender County planners. The area of land sits directly in the path of the planned Hampstead Bypass, where a series of interchanges are designed to merge the new highway with Highway 17 just north of Topsail Middle School.

RELATED: Hampstead residents pressure Pender to delay sand mine decision, move meeting venue

Jamestown is involved in a nearly five-year-long lawsuit with the N.C. Department of Transportation over what the developer alleged was an unconstitutional taking of its land for the bypass, which is designed to cut through the property.

Sand mine tabled indefinitely

In a letter to planners a week before the March 16 special meeting, Russell Weil, who represents Jamestown through his engineering firm Pintail Partners, said his client wished to continue its rezoning request for the sand mine operation until August and present it to the Planning Board in September.

“We would like to take the time to fully consider the comments we received at the public meeting and explore all of our potential options,” Russell wrote to Travis Henley, the county’s interim planning director.

However, at the meeting Henley said that because the board previously made a motion to table both the sand mine rezoning request and the Market Place master development plan to April, a special meeting was required to move the meeting at the request of Jamestown. Weil was in agreement to table the requests indefinitely rather than choose a specific date, according to Henley, while also noting the need to adapt to the growing Covid-19 crisis.

“What that act did was take any power to modify an agenda out of the hands of staff and the county attorney … Given the up-in-the-air context of [the Covid-19 crisis] in terms of large public gatherings, my recommendation to the board is that the request for the rezoning is tabled indefinitely.”

He told the board that Jamestown believed a September meeting would give it the necessary time to consider all options for the property, “whether that ends up bringing it forward, withdrawing the request, or requesting something else.”

“In my conversations with Russell Weil, he and Jamestown — the company he represents — want the time to adequately consider all the options and not rush into anything,” Henley told the board members, three of which were present and two others who joined via teleconference.

During a February informational meeting with concerned residents, Weil said Jamestown was also considering alternatives to the sand mine, including using the property as a blueberry farm or donating the land to the adjacent Holly Shelter Game Land.

He also told local conservationist Andy Wood he was “open to the conversation” of selling the land at a fair market value to Wood’s Coastal Land Conservation Group to be protected for its ecological value.

Neighbors of the Castle Bay subdivision join other Hampstead residents to protest the proposed Jamestown sand mine. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Chris Oh)
Neighbors of the Castle Bay subdivision joined other Hampstead residents to protest the proposed Jamestown sand mine at the Pender County Library in Hampstead last February. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Chris Oh)

Peter Rawitsch, a resident of the Castle Bay subdivision that borders the Jamestown property to the west — and who led local opposition to the sand mine — said the board’s decision to table the request was a sign that opposition efforts were effective.

“Working together, our community activism — appearing at the informational meeting, speaking out against the mine, and signing petitions — are what made these changes happen,” Rawitsch said. “The decision makers understand our concerns and objections and are insisting that they be addressed.”

Before the board voted anonymously to table the sand mine request and the shopping mall request indefinitely, board member Richard “Dee” Hartman voiced — on record — specific questions he’d like Jamestown to address.

Those included how the sand mine would affect the planned bypass; its effect on the value of the land and Jamestown’s ongoing lawsuit with the NCDOT; whether the bypass contractor can use the mine as a ‘borrow pit’ for construction; how trucks will enter and exit the mine; the number of trucks adding to local daily traffic volume; the life expectancy of the mine; noise and air quality impacts; whether a buffer is required and if Jamestown planned to build one; the expected impact on the three Topsail schools just east of the property; and how the mine could effect nearby water wells being supplied by the Castle Hayne Aquifer.

“I think those are questions we all have, for sure,” Henley responded.

Retail project proposal ‘stuck where it is at this point’

A master development plan for the proposed Market Place at the Preserve project was tabled indefinitely. "At this point that project is, for lack of a better term, stuck where it is at this point," Pender County's interim planning director, Travis Henley, told the Planning Board on Monday. (Courtesy Pender County Planning Department)
A master development plan for the proposed Market Place at the Preserve project was tabled indefinitely. “That project is, for lack of a better term, stuck where it is at this point,” Pender County’s interim planning director, Travis Henley, told the Planning Board on Monday. (Courtesy Pender County Planning Department)

Henley said the request to table Jamestown’s proposed Market Place at the Preserve retail project came not from Jamestown but from his planning department.

He told the Planning Board that his department believed the original traffic impact analysis (TIA) — submitted with an original master plan that included both a similar layout for retail buildings along Highway 17 as well as nearly 900 single-family residential units — to still be valid when they presented the application for the project, according to Henley.

“However, it was determined by NCDOT that it had been deemed to be expired, which would therefore mean that a new traffic impact analysis would need to be at least scoped before it comes before the board before a hearing,” Henley told the Planning Board.

Because Jamestown and the NCDOT was involved in active legislation, he said it was not possible to receive an updated TIA.

“So we cannot bring this Master Plan forward until that TIA is scoped … That project is, for lack of a better term, stuck where it is at this point.”

He then told the board that Jamestown had asked his department to stop all work on the project until their issues with the NCDOT are resolved.

Get caught up

Port City Daily has been covering Jamestown’s legal battle with the NCDOT since last year, up to recent developments concerning its proposed shopping mall and sand mine. Get caught up below:

Feb. 20, 2019: Larger than Wilmington’s The Avenue, massive development ‘The Preserve’ could be coming to Hampstead

Feb. 25, 2019: An overview of the long legal saga surrounding Hampstead’s potential “The Preserve” development

Dec. 30, 2019: Future of major Hampstead development waiting on Map Act case in NC Supreme Court

Feb. 6, 2020: Plans for Hampstead shopping mall submitted to Pender amid court battle with NCDOT

Feb. 12, 2020: After land taken for bypass, developer looks to rezone over 500 acres for sand mine behind Topsail High

Feb. 23, 2020: Hampstead residents pressure Pender to delay sand mine decision, move meeting venue


Send tips to Mark@Localvoicemedia.com, @markdarrough on Twitter, or (970) 413-3815

Related Articles