Monday, September 26, 2022

Gordon Road development project seeking permission to boost capacity with 17 more units

Developers behind the Landing at Lewis Creek are seeking permission to add 17 units to their site plan. (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY—Developers behind the Landing at Lewis Creek, an 85-acre development project on Gordon Road, will ask the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners to modify an existing special use permit (SUP) to allow the project to add 17 single-family dwellings to its site plan. 

The Landing originally secured an SUP in 2017, which gave the builder, McAdams Homes, the ability to construct 230 single-family dwellings and 192 multi-family units on the property. In 2018, the ratio of homes was altered; 40 of the single-family dwellings were reassigned as townhome dwellings. 

Back in 2017, the project’s initial push started with a request to rezone the tract, which was formerly zoned as office and institutional space. Citing concerns over the lack of commercial properties in the region, and an extensive supply of residential space that already existed in the area, the county’s planning board recommended the project request be denied.

Though, in a 3-2 vote, the board of commissioners approved the rezoning request, allowing development on the project to commence.

Related: County commissioners approve 400-plus residential units off Gordon Road despite opposition by planners

At the time, commissioners in favor of the project cited the need for density and affordable housing (townhomes in the development were initially selling for between $205,000 and $225,000). Commissioners who opposed the project cited worrisome traffic conditions on Gordon Road, which could be further exacerbated by new projects like the Landing.

The planning board heard the most recent request for 17 new single-family lots on Oct. 1. The developers actually sought permission for 18 additional units, but the number was reduced to 17 at some point in recent weeks, in anticipation of the upcoming board of commissioners meeting. Commissioners will make the final call on the request at their Nov. 16 meeting. 

Three residents who lived close to the Landing appeared at the planning board meeting to oppose the request. They alleged the developers misled them by opting to build more multi-family units than expected, but planning board members noted the plans always made it clear that multi-family units would be a major component of the project. 

In discussing the request, at least three members of the planning board used the term “heartburn” to describe their internal thinking on the developers’ ask for additional homes. 

Planning board member Jeffrey Petroff wondered if the proposal was a “bait-and-switch” scenario, and Ernest Olds, another member of the board, said the proposal “doesn’t feel right” to him. Ultimately, the developers, represented by Amy Schaeffer of Lee Kaess, PLLC, secured a positive recommendation in a 4-1 vote last month.

Michael Lee — the former state senator who appears on track to reclaim his seat, if his 1,468-vote lead holds after remaining mail-in ballots are tallied — represented the developers in the past as they fought for initial approvals. He said he is not involved with the requests associated with this recent push for more units. 

The Landing sits across from another project on Gordon Road, the Hawthorne at Smith Creek, which is a now-completed apartment complex. The road has become a high-traffic corridor between Interstate-40 and Market St. 

Plans are in the works to widen Gordon Road in order to accommodate the increased vehicle flow, though a staff report submitted for the proposal indicates “this project is scheduled for right of way acquisition in 2025 and construction is currently not funded.” However, it is possible that headway on the traffic project’s funding has been made since the writing of the report. Still, the department has encountered major funding issues this year and is behind on major projects. The division engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the status of the plan to widen Gordon Road. 

Rhonda Williams operates a daycare on Gordon Road, a few lots east of the Landing at Lewis Creek. She said the traffic situation worsened as major residential projects began breaking ground in the area over the past few years.

“I have a business, of course, and it’s hard to get in and out of the driveway,” Williams said. “It’s not the best thing, but what can you do when people sell their property?”  

A site plan in the Board of Commissioners agenda shows where the new proposed units would be, highlighted in yellow.

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