Friday, December 2, 2022

Carolinian Inn developer withdraws rezoning request prior to appearance before council

Developers requesting a rezoning for the Carolinian Inn property withdrew their application from city council last week. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — A divisive rezoning that would lead the way to redeveloping a faltering hotel is off the table, for now.

The applicant for a Market Street rezoning, surrounding the Carolinian Inn, pulled its request with the City of Wilmington prior to Tuesday’s council meeting when it was slated to be voted on. 

READ MORE: ‘So you abandoned the community?’ Planning commissioners unsatisfied with Carolinian Inn proposal recommend denial

ALSO: City residents push back against potential 148-unit development on Market Street

Paramounte Engineering representative Allison Engebretson, on behalf of developer Orange Capital Advisors, sent a brief email to city planning staff Nov. 9: 

“Please withdraw the rezoning application for 2916 Market Street. Let me know if you need anything further from me on this request.”

During Monday’s agenda briefing, city manager Tony Caudle delivered news to council that the public hearing slated for Tuesday’s meeting was no longer required.

Engebretson did not respond to Port City Daily’s requests for comment by press; this will be updated if and when the representative responds.

A withdrawal request means the applicant can re-submit its plan without any wait period, whereas if council denied the Carolinian Inn there would be a six-month delay before the applicant could resubmit.

The Wilmington Planning Commission voted 4-2 in early September to deny the rezoning. The applicants wanted to change 2916 Market Street from a split zoning, office and institutional and low-density single-family zoning to a conditional high-density, multi-family residential zoning.

The planning commission’s decision is ultimately a recommendation to the city council, who has the final say. The rezoning request, first to be considered in October, was delayed to November at the behest of the applicant. 

The developers were going to transform the 9-acre hotel into a four-story apartment building with 112 units and 36 townhomes. The Carolinian Inn, a dilapidated 62-room hotel, has been in operation since 1956. Owned by Rigi Inc, it has been deemed a public nuisance and cited with years of criminal activity by law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.

According to previous PCD reporting, there have been eight drug overdose calls — one fatal — four additional drug violations, three breaking-and-entering charges, multiple assaults (one on a law enforcement officer and one with deadly weapon), one fugitive arrest warrant, and one human trafficking charge. 

Nearby neighbors were strongly opposed to the apartment and townhome construction and hired an attorney to fight it. During two meetings held about the potential rezoning, more than 150 community members attended. Prior to the planning board’s public hearing, 60 comments were submitted online — all with concerns and opposition.

Area neighbors from Forest Hills, Beaumont, Brookwood and Mercer spoke out about traffic issues, along with intensity of the development and not fitting in with the surrounding neighborhood.

The lawyer, Gary Shipman, representing the opposers told the planning board:

“This proposal could not be a further departure from the [Land Development Code]. It doesn’t promote safety; it doesn’t promote environmental sensitivity; it places the overwhelming burden on streets that are already overburdened and a stormwater system that is already overburdened. The process is not nearly done.” 

The development would have produced nearly 8,000 more average weekday trips. Both residents and planning board members feared added congestion on an already crowded Market Street. The site is located along Market between Wayne Drive and 29th Street.

Opponents were planning to show up to council chambers Tuesday. According to resident Polly Tait, who wrote to PCD last week, “engagement amongst citizens is very high.”

“There’s a lot at stake here,” she continued, “not just for our neighborhoods affected by the potential rezoning of the Carolinian Inn property but for all of Wilmington.”

Tait, along with fellow advocate Kitty Yerkes, was pushing for council to follow its own comprehensive plan, which she said includes “sensible” rezoning.”

Catch up on past coverage here and here.


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