Saturday, April 20, 2024

Trask family submits vague proposal for 500-acre project in northern New Hanover County

The 500 acres of land, owned and managed by the Trask family, are situated in the lower right quadrant of this photo, which shows the intersection of I-40 and N.C. Highway 140 in northern New Hanover County. (Google Maps)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A Trask family company is hoping to have a 500-acre chunk of land, near the intersection of Interstate 40 and N.C. Highway 140, rezoned in order to allow the company to build residential homes on the properties. The tracts of land are in a key developing area, located in the northern region of New Hanover County. 

The two applications for rezoning, which will be heard by the New Hanover County planning board on Oct. 1, do not specify what sort of homes the Trasks are seeking to build. The applications say if the area were rezoned, it “would result in the establishment of a vibrant, diverse residential community that provides a better range of housing types, opportunities and choices in an [sic] that the County has designated as a Growth Node.” 

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The area is currently designated as a future “community mixed use” spot in a 2016 county land plan, according to the applications, which state there is already existing retail and commercial space in nearby areas, and that allowing the company to build residences on the land would prevent the area from being subject to industrial development.

A successful rezoning would allow the Trasks to put in homes with higher density — but they’re not asking for a hyper dense designation. As of now the tracts are zoned for industrial and relatively-less dense R-15 housing.

The applications are brief, and do not make clear what the company’s specific plans for the land are. “We would like for a broader mix of residential units (e.g. single-family, townhomes and multi-family) …,” according to both filings

Development boom coming to northern New Hanover County

New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple said the County has been trying to promote increased density development for years, to accommodate a growing population. But oftentimes when developers propose the rezoning of an established community, residents protest the change, giving County leaders pause about moving forward with a project, Zapple said. This Trask family land is currently undeveloped and vacant, and in a part of the County that hasn’t been considered as a prime area for developmental growth until relatively recently, Zapple said. 

“No ones going further out, mainly because there’s no water and sewer out there, and that has been the big stumbling block,” Zapple said. 

But in recent years, Zapple said, developments in fringe areas of the County that have reinforced their water and sewer infrastructure have proved successful, leading to a private sector epiphany that tracts of undeveloped land like that of the Trask family’s could be quite valuable. 

“That’s the next great frontier for CFPUA,” Zapple said. “We need to find another area that we can get a few of these off the ground so people can realize they’re not the end of the world.”

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Zapple said the Trask family, along with the other “legacy families” of Wilmington, accumulated huge swaths of land that were used initially mostly for agriculture. 

“This is kind of urban myth, but there’s something to it, that the Trask people figured out how to get lettuce into New York City, before anyone else did, before it would rot,” he said. 

After agriculture fell out of style in the years following the great depression, much of this land remained undeveloped. Now, it’s seen as a potential outlet for meeting the county’s density needs without ruffling the feathers of homeowners who don’t want to see their communities altered. Everybody wins, because there’s nobody living on these 500 acres of Trask land, Zapple said. 

Raiford Trask III, president of the Trask Land Company, did not return interview requests sent to his cell phone and to an office secretary by the time of publication. 

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