Monday, June 27, 2022

Middle Sound Loop townhome project raises traffic concerns for neighbors

OGDEN — A planned development in Ogden would significantly change the zoning of a parcel of land across from Ogden Elementary School from R-20 to R-5. The plan would be to construct 24 new townhomes on the land for a development called Demarest Pointe, something some neighbors are concerned about.

While it is certainly not the densest development planned for New Hanover County, it would be a significant change to the current zoning, which only allows 4.25 units per acre.

“The purpose of the Residential Moderate-High Density (R-5) District is to provide lands that accommodate moderate to high density residential development on smaller lots with a compact and walkable development pattern. The R-5 district allows a range of housing types and can be developed in conjunction with a non-residential district to create a vertical mixed-use development pattern as well as serve as a transition between mixed-use or commercial development and low to moderate density residential development,” according to the county’s own zoning ordinance.

The current R-20 district is actually in place to discourage this type of development.

“The purpose of the Residential-20 (R-20) District is provide lands that accommodate primarily very low-density residential development and recreational uses. District regulations discourage development that substantially interferes with the quiet residential and recreational nature of the district,” according to the zoning ordinance.

Local resistance

Robert Parr is one of the area’s more vocal residents; he often tries to bring attention to zoning requests and other items that could call for concern all around the county and City of Wilmington. His concern for this project is simple — increased traffic in the school area.

The property in question is located almost directly across from Ogden Elementary School and a roundabout. There have been several accidents in the general vicinity of the rezoning request and neighbors have concerns about the additional traffic. In fact, one group opposing the rezoning called Middle Sound Lookout created a map that plots different accident sites around the area and is hoping to convince the county that the request would not be consistent with the surrounding area.

“The bottom Google Earth Photo/Map was developed by Middle Sound Lookout – one of the groups opposed to the rezoning. This map relies on data supplied by NC DOT on accidents at the intersections surrounding the development, the location of the school zones, the location of the development site, location of the school and access points for parent and bus transport and the queue lines of traffic for AM traffic passes well past the access points to the proposed development,” Parr said.

However, developers are telling a different story in terms of traffic impacts at the location.

“Demarest Pointe is uniquely positioned at the confluence of Middle Sound Loop Road and Darden Road Round-A-Bout, across from Ogden Elementary School and at the apex of pedestrian connectivity routes with direct access to the Middle Sound Multi-Use Path that will soon connect to Market Street, Wrightsville Beach, and Marsh Oaks in Porters Neck. The neighborhood program will provide minimum traffic impacts to the Middle Sound Loop Corridor as reviewed by NCDOT with 3 trips entering – 9 trips exiting, am and 10 trips entering – 6 trips exiting, pm …” according to the developer’s narrative on the project.

Essentially, the developer is claiming that during the morning’s busiest hour only three vehicles are expected to enter the development and only nine are expected to leave. Again, in the afternoon rush, only 10 trips are expected to enter and six are expected to leave, according to a traffic analysis.

Of course, it is difficult to talk about development in the area without mentioning tree preservation — which has been a point of contention among residents of the area for some time now. In this aspect, the developer is planning on preserving as many trees as possible on the property. In fact, the developer claims that Demarest Pointe will preserve 95% preservation of the existing trees on the property (from 2 — 20 inches in diameter), and 75% of protected trees between 8 — 24 inches in diameter.

The request will head to the New Hanover County Planning Commission this Thursday, June 4, 6 p.m. — the meeting is being held at the Wilmington Convention Center.

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