Tuesday, April 16, 2024

No questions asked: Leland council approves 325-acre annexation, zoning

Savannah Branch is proposed between Leland’s Brunswick Forest, Wedgewood, Magnolia Greens and Hearthstone neighborhoods gained annexation (Courtesy Town of Leland).

LELAND — Town council members in a booming Brunswick town will move ahead with a 325-acre development with no protest from nearby neighbors. 

A jagged parcel of land between Leland’s Brunswick Forest, Wedgewood, Magnolia Greens and Hearthstone neighborhoods gained annexation, zoning and development approval on Oct. 20. Consent of a site plan is needed to start construction on the project, named Savannah Branch. 

The development is proposed by Renaissance LLC, overseen by Dewitt Carolinas, which constructed Pier 33 in downtown Wilmington. Renaissance Lifestyle are behind the luxury waterfront community Compass Pointe in Leland. 

The new development would include 331 single-family homes, 550 apartments and 350,000 to 400,000 square feet of retail space. Constructed in phases, the project would not reach full completion for another 10 to 12 years, according to town staff.

Based on the current tax rate, town staff estimate Savannah Branch would generate $1.5 million in tax revenue per year for the Town of Leland at buildout.

Developers would be required to construct water, sewer and street infrastructure, which would be transferred to town ownership when construction wraps. Under the development agreement, the developers will be allowed to construct wood bridges as means of vehicles ingress and egress along with other specifications for infrastructure construction. 

Council members unanimously approved all three agenda items at their October meeting without discussion.

In July, Leland’s planning board members expressed concern over flooding due to how the property is zoned. Multiple FEMA-designated flood zones cut the property in half, and would require permits and additional studies if structures were proposed within them.

“I want to make sure there’s some conservation in that area,” planning board member Debbie Willis said during the July meeting. 

Her observations were echoed by board member and Brunswick Forest homeowner Barabara Akinwole.

“To be perfectly honest with you, we thought it was always going to remain natural,” Akinwolse said. 

Because the development has yet to be submitted to the technical review committee, a site plan with flood mitigation has yet to be finalized. 

Still, Leland’s planning board also demonstrated unanimous support. They recommended council apply the multi-family and general commercial zonings to the property.

The land’s current zoning is industrial use, aside from small portions dedicated for commercial use. The multi-family offerings will require lot size minimums of 10,000 square feet and a density of 16 units per acre — double the allowance for industrial developments.

According to Leland’s Future Land Use Map, half of the property is deemed high development potential, while the other half has moderate potential or is oriented toward natural resource development. 

Staff justified their recommendation to council by comparing the application to the Leland 2045 Plan, the town’s future land use guide. It has six major themes with multiple goals under each category; Planning Supervisor Andrew Neylon addressed two during staff’s recommendation presentation to council. 

He told council the development would promote growth where infrastructure already exists and incrementally expand the town’s boundaries. The flexibility of the multi-family zoning district would allow for resilient development around environmental hazards, he added.
The annexation would be contiguous, considering the property connects to the town’s corporate limits to the north. Therefore, Leland would not be restricted by SB 911, a state law reducing the amount of distance from which Leland could annex to 1.5 miles from its corporate limits.

Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com 

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