Saturday, June 25, 2022

New Hanover County: Week in development

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved three rezoning requests and a special use permit at their Monday meeting. The developments include a mixed-use commercial node, a hospital, apartment units and a 130-foot monopole tower. (Port City Daily/File)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — The agenda of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting this week included three rezoning requests and an application for a special use permit. The requests represented a diverse cast of developments: a hospital, townhomes, a 60-acre mixed-use hub, and a cellular tower. All four items had successful hearings; the three rezonings were approved unanimously, and the cell tower application — which required a special use permit — was green lit in a split vote. 

The New Hanover County Planning Board meets Thursday to consider two new applications, one for a small townhome development and the other for a single-family neighborhood off Carolina Beach Road. The planning board serves as the initial public arena for projects that require changes to the county’s zoning map (rezoning requests), involve uses allowed on a case-by-case basis (special use permits), or adjustments to land-use codes (text amendments). 

The planning board votes to recommend or not recommend projects that come before the board; their opinions are forwarded to the board of commissioners, who make the final call on any given project. 

Here’s a rundown of the projects approved by the board of commissioners this week; stay tuned for reporting on the outcome of the two projects slated to go before the planning board Thursday. 

Hanover Reserve 

(Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

These 63 acres on undeveloped land in Murrayville are a continuation of a project that has been in the works for decades. Other portions of the developers’ holdings on adjacent tracts were approved in previous years for single-family lots and townhomes. 

The component of the project approved Monday by the board of commissioners, Hanover Reserve, is unique because its formulation has been interwoven with roadway plans in the area. 

READ MORE: ‘11th hour letter’ raises questions about how NCDOT regulates private sector

Hanover Reserve is vertically bisected by the Military Cutoff Extension route — an ongoing North Carolina Department of Transportation project that will extend Military Cutoff Road north in order to connect the road with the also-ongoing U.S. 17 Wilmington Bypass project. The roadway improvements are designed to alleviate congestion on the packed Highway 17 between Wilmington and Hampstead, creating a new thoroughfare between New Hanover and Pender counties. 

Moreover, the Hanover Reserve developers have agreed to pay for the extension of Murrayville Road into their project. It could create a major east-west passage that would provide an alternate route for travelers who would normally cross the county via Market Street. 

There are 473 residential units included in the approved plans for Hanover Reserve. The commercial facets of the project will be dependent on market conditions down the line, according to the applicant’s presentation. Completion of the project is expected in 2030. The request was unanimously approved.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center — Scotts Hill 

(Port City Daily/Courtesy LS3P)

NHRMC currently houses an emergency department and the Atlantic Surgicenter in Scotts Hill, the northern borderlands on the cusp of the Pender County line. Part of the system’s growth strategy is to develop a new hospital on this territory. After an initial denial setback, it obtained the go-ahead from state authorities in April to move forward with a 66-bed acute-care facility in Scotts Hill. NHRMC officially became part of the Novant Health system in February. 

READ MORE: NHRMC’s northern game plan propelled to next level

In the mid-2000s this 41 acres in Scotts Hill was approved for a conditional rezoning request — which involves a locked-in site plan. Four of the six buildings included in that previous site plan have not yet been constructed.

This latest rezoning request by Novant Health and NHRMC was a move to become untethered from the outdated conditional site plan. Without the “conditional” zoning designation, the hospital system has far more flexibility in designing and constructing the facility of its choosing, rather than being tied to what had been game-planned over a decade ago. 

“The hospital is being built for the future, with the capacity to add beds to meet the growing needs of the community,” according to a Novant Health spokesperson. 

The story of NHRMC’s ascendance in Scotts Hill began with a group of local physicians, who, anticipating a growth surge in the area, collectively purchased more than 200 acres of land starting in the early 2000s. The land on which Novant Health and NHRMC will build the new Scotts Hill hospital was sold to NHRMC by this group of doctors. 

READ MORE: How one physician started a revolution in Scotts Hill, recruiting investors and NHRMC along the way

Those doctors sold more land, too, including a parcel just south of the planned Scotts Hill hospital to a multi-family developer, which leads into the next approval:

Scotts Hill Apartments 

(Port City Daily/Courtesy New Hanover County)

Plans for an apartment complex of 265 units on 13 acres of land in Scotts Hill were unanimously approved Monday at the board of commissioners meeting. Sam Coker of Comet Development is involved in the purchase of this parcel from the aforementioned doctor group.

Cindee Wolf, a predominant land-use consultant in the New Hanover County scene and a frequent presence before the commissioners on behalf of clients, represented the developer. 

She was able to procure the unanimous approval despite concerted opposition from a few nearby residents, who expressed concerns about drainage conditions in the area, onsite wetlands and qualms over traffic conditions. Commissioner Deb Hays asked Jim Iannucci, the county engineer, to visit the area and report back to the board. 

A portion of the site containing wetlands, around 4.2 acres, was not part of the rezoning request and will be preserved. Traffic improvements required of the developer include signalizing nearby intersections on Market Street and adding U-turn lanes to accommodate traffic flow in and out of the Scotts Hill area. 

The approved plans include six residential buildings — three- and four-stories tall — to accommodate the apartment units, as well as an amenity center and pool.

Check back later this week for a synopsis of the cell tower special use permit request heard Monday. In a 3-2 vote, the board of commissioners approved an application for the installation of a 130-foot monopole tower nestled between single-family neighborhoods off Carolina Beach Road. 

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