Friday, July 19, 2024

Meeting breakdown: Commissioners agree to buy $11.9M building, fund study for business park

County commissioners agreed to purchase the building at 319 North Third St. for CFCC to expand its nursing program. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Commissioners signed off Monday on measures to aid the expansion of affordable housing, economic development, and healthcare education programs.

In a two-and-half-hour meeting, they unanimously approved the purchase of a building downtown for Cape Fear Community College, a land donation for a new business park, and amended its unified code ordinance to add permissible uses for residential properties.

CFCC expansion

The county has agreed to purchase an $11.9-million-dollar building to expand the nursing program at Cape Fear Community College. It still has to perform an appraisal, inspection and environmental study, complete a title search and review the lease agreements with current tenants, including Summit Logistics Group, Black and Veatch Corporation, Litify Inc, Eshleman Ventures, RKJ Group, Suzy Inc. and Olsen Enterprises. Cardinal Foods, SKA and Wooten Company also have month-to-month parking leases for the deck.

Staff said Monday it plans to complete those tasks by the end of the month and has until Nov. 3 to pull out of its contract, if needed.

The CFCC Board of Trustees approached the county earlier in September asking it to buy property at 319 North Third St. The five-story, 55,000-square-foot building, with associated parking lots, sits on nearly 2 acres of land downtown.

The structure would be renovated for CFCC’s nursing and other allied health programs — such as radiology, mammography and respiratory therapy — to mitigate the current employee shortage in the health industry in the region. With other nursing programs and classes held downtown, the location seemed appropriate for the college’s expansion plans.

The property is currently under contract with Cisco Ventures, who will transfer the contract to the county following its approval. The building is being sold by Riverbend #1, LLC.

Renovations associated with the building purchase will cost $14.8 million and occur in phases through fiscal year 2027. The facility will be converted for classrooms and lab space.

The purchase and renovations will be financed by debt proceeds — or limited obligation bonds — and the county will dedicate a separate fund to the capital project. While the building purchase itself does not require Local Government Commission approval, the long-term financing and debt issuance will need the greenlight to proceed, according to county chief financial officer Eric Credle.

“The county is responsible for financing capital outlay and using any bonds needed for the community college,” Credle explained to PCD. “This includes property purchases, based on the needs identified by the community college.”

As a result, the county has funded nearly every building the college operates in, primarily through debt proceeds.

NHC business park

Commissioners approved a 50-acre property donation from Sidbury Land and Timber as the foundation of a proposed business park on Holly Shelter Road. The gift comes with two conditions: The county must fund the completion of water and sewer to the property by 2026 and pay for the construction of an access road to the area, completed three years after the utilities are installed

Commissioner Bill Rivenbark has been pushing for a new industrial business park for over a year now. The expansion of Pender Commerce Park, established 15 years ago, impressed him, so he began urging county officials for a similar asset in New Hanover.

Pender Commerce has brought in companies such as RealtyLink’s cold storage warehouse, Acme Smoked Fish, Ramm Capital Partners, Empire Distributions and Coastal Beverage Company.

“I want to thank in particular commissioner Bill Rivenbark,” chair Julia Olson-Boseman said. “This man literally went to the property owners and sat on their front step until they would talk to him. That is how much this man has put into this project.”

The county has the opportunity to purchase up to 200 additional acres, at a minimum of 50-acre parcels at a time. The first additional purchase would be at 80% of fair market value, with the following sold at full market price.

“Many ingredients go into making a world-class business destination,” Wilmington Business Development director Scott Satterfield told commissioners. “New Hanover County has the opportunity to make an attractive new inventory of shovel-ready industrial property.”

He called it “the next frontier” for economic development strategy.

Commissioners also approved spending $145,000 toward a master plan study for the future park.

Accessory dwelling units

When husband and wife Austen Truhe and Christina Sheltra bought their new home at 10 Pelican Point Road, they did so assuming the detached structure on the property followed the county’s codes. Sheltra spoke to commissioners Monday explaining the only reason they were able to afford the home was knowing the guest house could essentially bring in added income. 

Shortly after purchasing the property in February 2022, the county informed them the accessory dwelling unit could not be used as intended. The couple asked for a text amendment to the unified development code to bring their land into compliance, zoned residential 15 — or low density. In this code, the couple cannot have an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), despite infusing $12,000 into furnishing and equipping the guest house.

County staff said Sheltra and Truhe’s situation is not unusual. Officials have received more calls about ADUs for several years, with one employee reporting 11 related calls in a six-month period.

As a result, the couple submitted a proposal to allow smaller residential units on stand-alone, single-family lots in all residential districts. The change would impact more than just their land.

In 2019, the county updated its ordinances to allow ADUs in the R-5 (moderate high-density), RMF (multi-family) and UMXZ (urban mixed-use) districts, but commissioners approved use in RA, R-20, R-15, R-10, R-7 (the remaining residential districts) and PD (planned development) districts as well.

County staff said allowing ADUs helps with affordable housing stock. It also allows seniors to age in place by acting as a multi-generational housing option and increases many’s ability to afford homes, or make additional income with short- or long-term rentals.

Commissioners signed off on it, with conditions including one ADU per property, the requirement of a parking spot, and having a maximum size of 1,200 square feet. Mobile homes, RVs, shipping containers and manufactured homes are prohibited.

Zoning allowances for ADUs also do not override any HOA covenants.

The amended ordinance change will go into effect Jan. 3, 2023, after county staff verifies the permitting process.

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