Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Despite drainage concerns, Castle Hayne development on old Trask land powers through detractors to secure approval

Blue Clay Townes, an approved townhome development in Castle Hayne, represents the next slice of the Trask family’s expansive land portfolio to be developed for residences. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Design Solutions)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A developer close to the Trask family secured unanimous approval from the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Monday to move forward on a residential development located on Blue Clay Road. 

The now-authorized rezoning request triples the density on the 7.6-acre project site, located in a rural but growing area. While the prior zoning allowed the buildout of 14 homes on the parcel, the newly secured zoning permits up to 50 townhome units. 

Previously: 50-home community proposed on portion of Trask family empire

The project on Monday’s agenda, Blue Clay Townes, is located just south of Rachel’s Place — a subdivision approved in 2016 that was similarly built on a slice of the Trask family’s plentiful land holdings.  

The surrounding territory is on the brink of a major expansion: Six in-the-works residential projects, including Rachel’s Place, are in the vicinity, and 500 units within those projects have yet to be constructed. 

One mile east of Blue Clay Townes in Castle Hayne is a mammoth piece of Trask land — more than 1,000 acres — that has yet to see major movements despite being approved for mixed-use purposes back in 2006. To the south is Wilmington International Airport. Further north on Blue Clay Road, New Hanover County holds a vast swath of acreage that has been designated as the site of a future business park

The runways of the Wilmington International Airport can be seen at the very bottom, while the subject site of the townhomes is marked with the icon. While the homes in the center are not Trask-owned, the majority of the center-top acreage is held by the family. (Port City Daily/ Google Maps)

Both Rachel’s Place and the new townhome project, Blue Clay Townes, considered Monday, involve the same characters. Developer Brett Bostic, who is married to a member of the Trask family, helmed the construction of Rachel’s Place and is set to manage the new development too. Cindee Wolf, a prominent Wilmington-area land-use consultant, represented Bostic’s interests both this year and back in 2016. 

Wolf was put on the defensive at times during the board of commissioners meeting, as she faced probing questions from Commissioner Rob Zapple and inflammatory allegations from a homeowner in the area. 

One woman, who claimed to represent the views of Rachel’s Place homeowners during the public hearing, spoke sourly of the drainage conditions in Rachel’s Place. The soil in the area is poorly drained, county engineer Jim Iannucci told the board.

“Evidently, we’ve already got one neighborhood that’s wet,” Commissioner Bill Rivenbark said at the meeting. “I don’t see any need in building another one.” 

Rivenbark said he would not oppose the project, but wanted means of enforcing the county’s desired outcomes. 

“I just want to hold some people’s feet to the fire to make sure that it’s better,” he said. “How do we do that?”

Wolf said that such concerns were no issue. Pursuant to a county process, the developer has six figures of cash tied up in bonds, hanging over future construction at Rachel’s Place. Further plats cannot be issued until the developer tackles a “punch list” of itemized concerns and has an engineer sign off on the corrections. 

The punch list for Rachel’s Place includes at least 15 specific concerns that the developer must rectify. “That’s not an abnormal punch list for a project of this size,” Wolf told the board. 

This “Punch List” shows each concern the county engineering office will require the Rachel’s Place developers to rectify before future construction can proceed. (Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

Ultimately, the board  felt the rezoning hearing for Blue Clay Townes was not the time to litigate claims about Rachel’s Place — which, although involving the same players, is an unrelated project. 

On Rachel’s Place, Wolf said correcting the alleged drainage issues is underway.

“A large community like this takes time,” she said at the meeting. “And it requires some patience from the residents.”

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