BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The Brunswick County Planning Board approved a handful of rezoning requests totaling nearly 2,250 acres Tuesday, indicating more residential and commercial growth is on the way.
The number of residential construction permits pulled with the county has risen consistently since 2012, reaching record levels this past year, according to Brunswick County officials. A contributing factor is the county’s population doubling in size between 2000 and 2020. Commercial construction permits have held steady over the last decade.
Once staff reviews an application and prepares a recommendation, it goes before the planning board for a public hearing. The planning board’s decisions stand as final, but all decisions are appealable to the board of commissioners.
From a massive rezoning request for high-density residential development near Pea Landing Road in Ash to a commercial low-density request near Ocean Highway East in Winnabow, here’s a rundown on what came before the planning board earlier in the week.
1,000 fewer acres
Owners of a massive collection of 13 parcels in the southwest unincorporated county successfully received a requested rezoning that may set the stage for a medium-density residential development. Applicant and engineer J. Phillip Norris initially requested nearly 3,100 acres of land be rezoned from rural residential (in place since 1994) to R-7500.
Originally scheduled for March 14, the public hearing for the rezoning was pushed at the applicant’s request to the April meeting and again to the May 9 meeting. After discussion with county planning staff, Norris reduced his request to 2,131 acres. This excludes six of the original parcels, mostly in the northern portion of the property.
“Our initial request was looking at a much larger piece because of the proximity of the parcels to existing R-6000 as well as R-7500,” Norris said. “We met with staff and they had some questions and concerns. We worked through those and believe R-7500 is more compatible with the area.”
R-7500 is a lower-density district than the originally proposed R-6000,but the rezoning would still increase the maximum permitted residential density from 2.9 dwelling units per acre to 5.8 units per acre.
“At this point, the property owners have no plans, but they see development moving in their direction,” Norris told the board.
The tract is located near Pea Landing and No. 5 School roads in Ash. It’s surrounded by other high-density site built residential areas, as well as agricultural and vacant lands.
The land borders Brunswick Plantation; its homeowners association raised concerns regarding sufficient water supply, flood management and proper sewer and drainage systems at Monday’s meeting.
Homeowners association president Susan Chopard read a letter on behalf of the group and urged the board to carefully consider the rezoning of the parcels.
“It will be the first step to allowing a larger development project to go forward,” she said. “[We] urge you to take into consideration our concerns when planning future growth, limiting building to a sustainable number that can be supported environmentally and economically.”
County planner Marc Pages said the floodplain administrator would require a flood study prior to construction since a large portion of the property is in the 100-year flood zone and is considered wetlands. Also, the Caw Caw Canal flows through a portion of the property.
If developed, the property owners would also have to obtain state and county stormwater permits and perform a traffic impact analysis, adhering to potential recommendations from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The property is owned by Katherine and David Fort under their three businesses: Longwood Properties, LLC and KCS Farms LLC out of Myrtle Beach, as well as S. Longwood LLC from Whiteville, N.C. The land was purchased in sections over the last 25 years.
Nearby is the future site of the Carolina Bays Parkway extension, a joint project between the North Carolina and South Carolina departments of transportation. The roadway would extend from S.C. 9 in Horry County, S.C. across the N.C. border to U.S. 17 in Brunswick County.
According to the rezoning application, “one of the proposed routes for the Carolina Bays Parkway crosses directly through the proposed rezoning area.”
Although not currently funded in NCDOT’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, a 10-year plan for major projects in the state, its cost of construction is estimated at $552 million. The main goal, according to NCDOT, is to reduce traffic and congestion on local roadways by creating a bypass.
NC 211 commercial zoning
At the intersection of Zion Hill Road along N.C 211, a wooded 2.52-acre tract was rezoned from site-built high-density residential to commercial low-density to make way for a possible storage facility.
Its location near a major thoroughfare is consistent with the proposed district, according to the planning staff’s recommendation. Surrounding property is zoned residential to the north and south and neighborhood commercial to the west.
Land owner Kathleen Yuhasz hopes to merge the parcel with an adjacent property she owns to the east, which was rezoned to commercial low-density in October 2018. The land is currently built out as her husband’s office space.
At Monday’s meeting, Yuhasz’s husband Allan said the couple is considering building a storage facility, as he has heard complaints that none are located near the Winding River neighborhood, where he lives in Bolivia. He said he would leave a perimeter of trees surrounding any future building to alleviate a roadside eye sore.
The couple said they are working with NCDOT and may need to make some driveway adjustments for potential plans, but nothing is concrete at this time. The rezoning passed unanimously.
A large tract of land consisting of 14 parcels — owned by 10 different individuals — near Holden Beach, was rezoned to bring several uses back into compliance.
Gerlad Kirby owns 13.5 of the total acres and represented the other landowners at the meeting. He said he’s owned the land for 80 years. Recently, he said, it was brought to his attention the zoning did not allow certain types of housing or business.
“When this area was zoned SBR-6000 years ago, none of the property owners knew about the change,” he said. “Most of the activity we’ve been doing won’t be allowed.”
This includes farming, storing construction equipment, and modular and mobile homes. Kirby and his neighbors feared they would no longer be able to use their land as they have, based on the zoning restrictions. Also, if any of the current modular or mobile homes were destroyed by storms or fires, insurance would not cover their replacement.
“If we lost use of the property as we’ve been using it for generations, it would be impossible for us to make a living,” Kirby added.
The 65.8 acres were swapped to a less restrictive, high-density residential district. R-6000 allows for a broader range of housing types, including single- and double-wide mobile homes, duplexes and semi-attached homes at 7.3 units per acre.
Totaling 65.8 acres, the property is located along Stanbury Road between Holden Beach Road SW and Apollo Street SW, and surrounded by additional residential properties as well as vacant land.
The planning board unanimously agreed it was in the public interest to rezone the land.
Commercial development along US 17
Charlotte’s Bell Creek Development Group applied to rezone one of two parcels to commercial low density. The adjacent parcel, also owned by Bell Creek, is already zoned as such, while the other is commercial intensive, creating a split-zoned property.
“The applicant’s intention is to develop the site as one project, but it’s proving to be challenging with split zones,” Paramounte Engineering planner Brad Schuler said on behalf of developers.
The 49.65-acre property is located on the corner of Ocean Highway East (U.S. 17) and Bell Swamp Connection. It’s surrounded by residential and commercial uses, and much of the land along Highway 17 in Winnabow is currently zoned commercial low density.
A 25.9-acre portion of the parcel was rezoned from rural to commercial manufacturing in February 2007 and rezoned again to commercial intensive (which includes some industrial uses) following the May 2007 unified development ordinance.
Multiple neighbors expressed concerns over flooding issues if more trees were removed and construction occurred. The planning board assured attendees the lower-density district limits what can be built. Also, the developer would have to obtain a stormwater permit to plan for future runoff.
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