WILMINGTON — Earlier this year, the developers of the CenterPoint project submitted a request to increase the height of three proposed buildings, catching neighbors off guard and leaving them crying foul over a perceived bait and switch. Now it appears the developers may drop the request.
The request still appears on the September 8 agenda for City Council, one of two additional council meetings this month added to catch-up on a backlog of development and other issues. However, city staff have apparently notified neighbors that the request is being at least partially retracted.
The modifications to the conditional rezoning permit for the project, which was approved two years ago, would use a Special Use Permit (SUP) to allow three additional buidlings to reach 75 feet in height, 20 feet taller than currently allowed. It would also modfiy the plan to decrease restaurant space by 45% and the proposed retail space by 30% to make way for more apartment and parking space.
In early spring, dozens of neighbors signed a letter sent to developer David Swain, criticizing both the proposed modifications and accusing Swain of going back on promises he made to neighboring communities to secure their support.
This frustration is notable because Swain and his associates had worked hard to curry favor with residents during the approval process of his project. During the summer of 2018, hundreds of residents turned out to a series of Planning Commission and City Council meetings to oppose a series of mixed-use developments along Military Cutoff, including The Avenue and CenterPoint. While some still opposed Swain’s project, it was clear during the meeting that his efforts had at least been partially successful.
A city spokeperson said staff believed the Swains would withdrawn the heigh-increase request, but could not officially confirm it. Because the request involves a city ordinance modifying the original zoning, it cannot be casually dropped, although developers have up until the day of the meeting to submit paperwork officially withdrawing it.
However, an email from the Landfall Council of Associations, shared with Port City Daily, indicates that city staff have already notified some neighbors to indicate the Swains will only pursue height increases for one of the three buidlings originally eyed for added elevation.
In the email, Senior Planner Brian Chambers wrote “Center Point is actually withdrawing their request for additional building height for the additional structures and will be reducing the height of the hotel to the by-right height on 55 feet. The only structure above the by-right will be the apartments/parking deck, which will remain at 68 feet. They will still be pursuing a modification to their site plan to adjust building locations.”
In March, David Swain told the planning commission he would pull back some of his height increase requirements, although the SUP for those increases will only be heard by City Council. After two members of the commission who worked on CenterPoint recused themselves, the commission approved other changes to the project in a split 3-2 vote.
Note: Developer and applicant for the modifcations Jason Swain, son of David Swain, did not respond to a request for comment.