Boat dealer, lawn care operation, outdoor furniture store and a subdivision: rezonings approved

Two members of the board of commissioners, Rob Zapple and Charlie Rivenbark, attended the meeting in-person at the county courthouse. The other commissioners attended virtually. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday for the second time since new members Deb Hays and Bill Rivenbark were sworn in following the November 2020 election. The board reviewed the progress on constructing a new county government building and expanded the Meals on Wheels program. 

It was a big night for rezonings and land use requests, as four agenda items involving land planning were brought before the board. All of them passed unanimously.

RELATED: Planning board docket: Three projects in the works in New Hanover County

Three of the four requests applied to singular private businesses, rather than large subdivisions or large-scale complexes. Only one request, on behalf of Preservation Point, involved a rezoning of more than five acres of land.

An attempt by Design Solutions to expand an RV park near Carolina Beach was continued to the February board of commissioners meeting.

Battleship Cycles and Marine

Battleship Marine plans on building a dealership and showroom on Market Street, north of the Military Cutoff intersection. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

In between a CubeSmart storage facility and a veterinary hospital on Market Street, there is an undeveloped tract of land that the owners hope to turn into a boat dealership, with retail space for boats, motorcycles and ATVs. 

Development in the area has previously been untenable, since the veterinary clinic next door possesses a septic system that sits in the wooded area between both properties. Further, there is a 41-inch heritage oak nearby the septic system, limiting potential plans. 

Sam Potter, an attorney for the applicant, said the developers have worked with CFPUA to bring sewer to the site, and the septic system that currently limits development will be removed once the veterinary hospital can access the new sewer. 

According to county planning staff, the applicant increased the square footage of the main building from 10,500 to 12,000 square feet, but the increase would not have a measurable impact on traffic patterns. The developers worked to incorporate the heritage oak into the design of the proposed structure, which exists on approximately 2.3 acres on 7775 Market Street. 

Porch Concepts 

Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions submitted a plan for an outdoor furniture store on Market St. — including a parking lot, stormwater pond and two different buildings. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions said her clients are currently renting space for their outdoor furniture store and are now hoping to move the business to their own property. 

“Like so many aspiring business owners they now have the confidence to own their own real estate,” she told the board. 

Porch Concepts will include a furniture showroom and a warehouse for storing product. It will operate on a 2.2-acre tract on Market Street, only a few minutes away from the proposed boat dealership. 

While the site is currently zoned for residential use, the applicants argued in their proposed plan, “Single-family residences are much less attractive along busy traffic corridors.”

The property is located in the midst of surging construction projects along Market Street. Commissioner Rob Zapple asked Wolf if the applicants understood how the site’s proximity to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Military Cutoff Extension project would affect them. Wolf said her clients understood, and that their currently rented furniture store was already adjacent to Market Street construction. 

Preservation Point 

Developers behind Preservation Point would like to have 71 acres of their land rezoned for residential use, even though the land is bound by a conservation easement and is un-developable. (New Hanover County staff) 

The developers behind Preservation Point, a riverside subdivision in Castle Hayne, asked the board of commissioners to rezone more than 70 acres of land from industrial to residential use. Instead of using the rezoning to increase density and build more units, however, the applicants asserted the rezoned land is locked in an airtight conservation easement that will prevent future development. 

RELATED: Preservation Point makes a rare ask: a rezoning request involving no new development

Once rezoned, the land could be divided among already existing lots in Preservation Point. Even though small additions like gazebos or kayak launches would still be prohibited, residents could enjoy ownership of the sprawling land that extends from their front yard, according to Frank Braxton of Coastal Land Design. 

“One of the main attributes of this development is the view,” Braxton told the board. “That’s what people are after. The view to the river, the view to the marsh. And we felt like the best way to maintain that was, one, put it in a conservation easement that had enough teeth in it that it could be enforced, but also to extend the line of their lot.”

Zapple pressed Braxton on how limited the property owners’ rights to the land would be. 

“This is purely, as you said, for the view, and cannot be disturbed with any other kind of gazebo or launch or anything?” Zapple asked. 

“No,” Braxton responded. 

“Wow, that’s great,” Zapple said. 

The conservation easement, Braxton said at a previous planning board meeting, was crafted alongside county staff and attorneys, and written in a way that “gives a recourse and a way to put teeth in the easement if someone was to overstep their boundary.”

Freedom Lawns 

Next to Myrtle Grove Middle School, there’s an adjacent lot to the west that includes a small business structure and a residential home. 

Cindee Wolf represented the applicant, a lawn care franchise hoping to move into the property, and said that, like her other client, Freedom Lawns currently leases a property and would like to move into ownership. 

“This is not an intensive use in any way,” she told the board. 

The lawn care company would do all its work offsite, according to Wolf. County staff told the board the existing residence on the site was a “legal nonconformity,” as it was built prior to land code updates, but the site has been used for office related uses since the late 1990s. 

Wolf is also attempting to obtain a special use permit for the owners to live in the residence on-site. That agenda item was continued to the February board of commissioners meeting.

Other applicants previously tried and failed to secure rezonings for this plot of land; a request to construct a Dollar General next to the middle school was shot down in 2019.

Freedom Lawns recently made a deal for the property west of the middle school, and wants to create a facility that it says will be low impact and not involve significant traffic. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

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