LELAND — The Town of Leland is expanding its boundaries and its conservation district with several upcoming annexations of untouched lands.
With just over 120 of recently acquired acres to incorporate and rezone, officials are looking at broadening the qualifications for the town’s conservation district to assign the properties to it. The rezonings would safeguard the land from development, limiting permissible uses on the sites to parks and other open-space pursuits.
Leland is facing rapid development as one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the state, with more than 4,000 incoming or recently built residences, not including Brunswick Forest or Mallory Creek, and 29 commercial developments either newly constructed or in the works.
Leland’s planning board will review the proposed amendment to its zoning ordinance Tuesday.
As is, only properties abutting estuarine waters or coastal wetlands can join the conservation district. The drafted change would expand the definition to make other areas not connected to water — but still valuable — eligible for the conservation district. Qualifying areas would include isolated wetlands, biodiversity and wildlife habitats, and locations with historical, cultural and archeological significance.
“Areas zoned Conservation District should be maintained in their natural, scenic, wooded and open condition to the maximum extent practicable, and restricted from any development or use that would impair or interfere with the conservation purposes of this zoning district,” according to the refined text.
Established in 2003, Leland’s conservation district is made up of five properties currently. Three of the parcels are connected, spanning around 250 acres on Eagles Island, and are owned by the New Hanover County Soil and Water Conservation District. The town also possesses nearly 120 acres along the northern riparian buffer of Jackey’s Creek and 20 acres on the edge of Mill Creek.
When land is assigned to the conservation district, its allowable uses become limited to a public park, playground, playfield or community center. Small wireless facilities and wireless antennas on existing structures are also permitted.
After the planning staff considers revisions to the conservation district, it will review five separate rezonings, totaling nearly 123 acres.
Several of the properties in question were recently transferred to the town by the N.C. Department of Transportation. The state originally acquired the parcels for the Hampstead Bypass project.
Through a quitclaim deed, NCDOT transferred ownership of the properties to the town in November without selling. The town initiated annexations earlier this month. When land is first incorporated into the city, it must be assigned a new zoning district.
For now, the town intends to reserve the lands as passive open space.
Two acres, made up of portions of three parcels, is located near the intersection of U.S. Highway 17 and Interstate I-140. Another transfer included four parcels, totaling approximately 0.26 acres, where Snowfield Road Southeast and Hazels Branch Road Southeast connect.
Both areas were classified as having “high development potential” within the Leland 2045 Future Land Use Map. The map identifies areas expected to one day join the town limits and classifies them as ideal for building, environmental systems worthy of protecting or somewhere in between.
Currently, the properties are zoned as commercial low density in Brunswick County.
Approximately 10 acres up for rezoning near Interstate I-140 and the Seabrooke subdivision is currently zoned rural residential in Brunswick County. In the Leland 2045 plan, the property is marked as having some potential for development while also being an ideal place to preserve open space.
The town also received approximately 99.31 acres from NCDOT near the Juniper Creek subdivision, off Old Fayetteville Road.
Originally, the transportation department acquired the land as a wetland mitigation site. It was transferred to the town in November along with the other parcels.
Lastly, the town is looking to rezone approximately 11.32 acres it recently obtained for a permanent disc golf course. The new park will replace the baskets at Founders Park. The lots are adjacent to the Windsor Park neighborhood and Interstate I-140.
Council approved purchasing one parcel for $45,000 from 74 Holdings, LLC and another for $45,000 from the Estate of VA Creech, Jr. in recent months.
The area is classified as a natural resource with some development potential within the Leland 2045 Future Land Use Map.
The planning board meets Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. in town hall. Council will have final say on the changes to the conservation district and the five rezonings at a later date.
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