BRUNSWICK COUNTY –– Development applications are on the rise in Brunswick County. Next month the planning board is slated to consider as many as six subdivisions hoping to break ground in the county, which, compared to New Hanover, is abundant with untapped land.
Amid the uptick, one parcel that was rezoned in 2015 is back on the scene.
Previously granted a license to build a Mayfaire-esque project along Highway 211, Malcolm Jones, the landowner, has returned to the planning board because his five-year window to complete the project expired.
The original plan was to transform 135 acres into a retail center with a big-box store, more than 1,000 parking spaces and residential space.
The site’s proximity to St. James Plantation — a growing, upscale residential community — was a major selling point, according to a 2017 article from the StarNews. Utilities provided by the town of St. James were slated to service the project, which in previous site plans was called “Mirasol.”
Despite the high hopes, the plan never came to fruition. Nick Silivanch, a broker and partner at Eastern Carolinas Commercial Real Estate, previously made moves to sell space in Mirasol to retailers, but it did not pan out, he said.
“We tried our best to make things line up,” Silivanch said in an interview. “Development down in that part of the world wasn’t where it needed to be for everything to line up for us.”
Jones, a Florida developer who originated from North Carolina, according to the StarNews, has brought his land back into the arena of planning board review.
While the long-term plan for his acreage is murky at the moment, county staff asserted that, in the short term, Jones hopes to bolster his mining operation.
According to Brunswick County planning staff, the land is currently in use as a single-source sand mine. State law allows for “single-source” mines — those in which the materials go to only one recipient — to bypass county approvals and operate by right.
Sand mining involves extracting the raw substance from the earth, which then is utilized in construction materials like concrete, or as an abrasive. Previously, another sand mine was proposed nearby, on the opposite side of Highway 211.
“It’s already a sand mine today,” planning director Kirstie Dixon said. “My understanding is that their sand is going to a Duke Power site, as a single source.”
The rezoning that Jones and his representative — Dan Weeks of H+W Design — are seeking for the 130 acres of Brunswick County land would allow for expanded mining use on the territory. Specifically, the rezoning would permit him to deal sand to more than one client, Dixon said.
“I do know in the future they want to do a sand mine,” she said. “There’s a lot of sand on the site. After that, they’ll most likely do a planned development.”
The conditional rezoning request that Jones and his representative filed lists an expansive number of potential uses, including townhomes, a hotel, a microbrewery, a mine and planned development.
“In the immediate future, the developer wants to do the Sand Mine,” Marc Pagès, senior planner, wrote in an email. “He has no concrete plans for the more distant future, just that he would like to reserve those other listed uses as potential land uses.”
According to Pagès, the planning board application — scheduled to be heard at the Monday, Apr. 12 meeting — will likely be tabled at the behest of the developer, “to give him some time to address the recently raised concerns about the nearby aquifer wells.”
Pagès said the county utilities director raised the concern that mining activity could potentially contaminate the groundwater.
“The applicant is requesting more time to research and provide more information to address the concerns,” he wrote. “Hopefully, all of the answers to these questions could come out in the coming weeks.”
Jones did not respond to a request for comment.
According to the application packet, this territory was previously denied a conventional rezoning request in November 2020. The request was amended to a conditional rezoning — which gives county leaders more leeway to impose preconditions — and sent back to planning staff for reprocessing.
The Brunswick County Planning Board will meet at 6 p.m. in Bolivia
Read more about the project’s on the agenda for the Apr. 12 Brunswick County Planning Board meeting here
Read more coverage from Port City Daily on additional agenda items here
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