Thursday, June 30, 2022

Developers of 170-unit Masonboro Sound project given ‘Notice of Violation’ due to erosion concerns

One regulator within New Hanover County Engineering charged East & Mason for being out of line in its land-clearing activity. The developer said problems arose from recent big rains. (Port City Daily/Johanna Still)

WILMINGTON — Builders of a coastal neighborhood in the Masonboro Sound area were put on notice by county regulators, who recently deemed the erosion and sediment control measures at the site were apparently failing. 

East & Mason, a subsidiary of Robuck Homes, is a planned community to be stationed on 64 acres across the street from the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. Once fully built-out, the 170-home subdivision will add another passthrough between Masonboro Loop and Masonboro Sound roads. 

A representative of East & Mason acknowledged New Hanover County’s Oct. 18 notice of violation and said in a statement that issues at the site arose from rain events.

“East & Mason Developers takes its environmental obligations with local and state agencies very seriously,” according to the statement. “We have corrected all issues identified after the significant rain events over the past weeks and are in the process of formally communicating with New Hanover County that we are compliant.”

The site, purchased for $6.6 million last year, was approved by the City of Wilmington for a density bonus by qualifying as an “exceptionally designed project.” Marketing on the lots will start late this year and homebuilding could start soon after that, according to a September press release. 

Once densely wooded, the site was clear-cut earlier this year to make way for the residential project, which will consist of both single-family homes and townhouse units. 

An old cottage used as a servants’ quarters for a nearby antebellum vacation home sits on the eastern edge of the lot; through negotiations, the Historic Wilmington Foundation placed an easement on the cottage, nicknamed the “doll house,” to preserve its exterior and the trees around it. The East & Mason property is on the fringes of the Masonboro Sound Historic District, where old cottages and mansions, remnants of previous centuries, still exist. 

RELATED: Masonboro Sound Historic District: An ‘oasis of extraordinary beauty’ threatened by clear-cutting development

The Historic Wilmington Foundation maintains a protective easement on a historic cottage, photographed in April, located in the East & Mason property. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

The notice of violation, signed by a soil erosion specialist within New Hanover County Engineering, stated there appeared to be a failure at the site to protect critical areas subject to accelerated erosion and “to protect property from damages caused by sedimentation and erosion damage.” 

The letter also implies the builders progressed with land-disturbing activity outside the scope of their approved plan. According to the letter, it appears the approved site plan was altered, but county engineering was not apprised of the updates. 

Suggested site repairs included “removal of sediment and rock from jurisdictional and offsite areas with buckets and shovels.” 

The development company in September released details on its clubhouse and pool amenities. “The clubhouse is designed to blend within the coastal style community of East & Mason, with a Modern Farmhouse-meets-New-Shore vibe,” according to a press release. 

Thirty lots are being reserved for local custom builders, with the rest to be developed by Robuck Homes, according to the company. Based in Raleigh, Robuck has built homes in more than 63 communities. 

In December 2019, the limited liability company used to purchase the Masonboro Sound tract, Raleigh-Wilmington Investors LLC, also purchased 13.6 acres across town on Middle Sound Loop for $549,000 from First Baptist Church. 

“We are excited to receive approval of our amenity plans so we can begin construction as soon as possible,” Joe Cebina, of East & Mason Developers, said in the September press release. 

All land-disturbing activities of one acre or more in North Carolina are required to submit plans that address erosion and sediment control during the construction process, according to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. Erosion control helps protect waterways from sediment, which can degrade water quality and impact habitats. 

New Hanover County, like many other areas of the state, has been delegated authority to enforce sedimentary control rules. Notices of violation are not often handed down, county engineer Jim Iannucci previously told Port City Daily. The notices do not come with automatic penalties or fines unless left unaddressed.

There have been a few other cases this year. Major rain led to a similar notice being sent to developers of a Harris Teeter-anchored property on Carolina Beach Road, and a residential subdivision off Gordon Road was also called out for poor sedimentary control measures.

A rendering of the planned East & Mason community in Masonboro Sound. (Port City Daily/Courtesy East & Mason)

East & Mason Land Disturbance Notice of Violation by preston lennon on Scribd

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