WILMINGTON — A large development request that would see nearly 600 new residences built near the Tregembo Animal Park in Wilmington will finally be heard by New Hanover County Commissioners next week — although neighbors are hoping that the request will not pass.
The developer, James Yopp, is hoping the county will approve a rezoning request to change the land use from R-15, which is a low-density zoning district, to R-5, which is high density and would allow up to 575 residential units. The project would be an addition of the Tarin Woods neighborhood which currently consists of 130 single-family homes and neighbors want to keep the land zoned for single-family residences.
This is not the first time Yopp has asked the county for a rezoning; two previous attempts starting in 2018 were never approved and neighbors of the property have been pushing back against what they feel is far too dense of development for the property. In fact, neighbors are so opposed to the plans that they have created a website and organization, South County Neighbors United, to share their message.
On May 21 a petition was submitted to the county with 229 signatures of neighbors opposing the rezoning request, asking commissioners to take their concerns into consideration.
“In 2020, he (Yopp) came back seeking a conditional R-5, which would allow building 499 units (402 in duplex, triplex, or quadruplex buildings) to be built in accordance with a specified plan, and that conditional R-5 request was approved by the Planning Board. At all three meetings, the primary contention was about traffic congestion and the multiple traffic impact assessments that have been done for that property and others nearby in the past decade. Each meeting also considered impacts on the Tregembo animal park, wetlands, and drainage, etc,” according to the website.
Those in opposition to the project have said his rezoning requests are motivated solely by profit.
“The Hoosier Daddy LLC company has converted a vast swath of wooded lands into single-family residences called Tarin Woods and Tarin Woods II. Now, instead of completing the plan for Tarin Woods II, the developer wants to increase profits by building high-density housing on 75 acres of it. Our community has been adamantly opposed to changing the R-15 zoning since it was first requested in 2018. The developer has persistently refused to listen to our objections, bulldozing through the Planning Board much as he bulldozed through our open spaces,” according to the neighbor’s petition sent to the county.
But for Yopp, it is not just about profits, instead, it is about practicality he said.
“For one, it doesn’t make sense to build single-family hopes that abuts a zoo — on a lion’s cage — or a six-hundred unit storage facility, or a strip mall,” Yopp said. “That’s not practical. It’s not what the county’s comprehensive plan is looking for — and it’s not what all people are looking for. Not everyone is looking for a four- or five-bedroom home. You’ve got that first-time homebuyer, or someone who has retired.”
Yopp has also claimed that his development proposal is in sync with the county’s comprehensive plan — but again — neighbors disagree.
“The developer claims that the high-density units are consistent with the county’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan by virtue of providing a transition between a commercial B-2 district and the extensive residential region east of it. In fact, however, it does not do that. The proposed units at the north end are fully embedded in the residential zone. West and southwest of that, the high-density units would border on B-2 property, but it is wooded wetland that needs no transition to the residential zone. South of that, the proposed townhomes would abut a kind of park – an animal park which you know as Tregembo Zoo. It is not the type of business that requires a transitioning buffer,” according to the website.
However, on March 5, the Planning Board recommended the approval of the request saying that it was consistent with the county’s plans. The next step will be for the County Commissioners to vote on the item on June 1 at 4 p.m., the meeting is being held at the Wilmington Convention Center.