LELAND — The Town of Leland has been acquiring and annexing land at a rapid pace for the past year because it does not want to miss its chance at preserving space before development takes over.
The town is no stranger to annexation as a whole, voluntarily taking thousands of acres into its town limits in the past few years for developments. But the town has also annexed parcels it owns to the tune of almost 400 acres since last September.
The most recent parcel the town signed off on in November consisted of 27 acres of vacant land flanking the section of I-141 that runs by Buckeye Road. It purchased the land for $200,000 from James Small.
That parcel, along with the eight others it has annexed in the past year, are space the town has no immediate plans for. The 27-acre parcel is its most expensive purchase by far, followed by $87,000 paid for 30.5 acres. Some of the land was donated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The 27-acre parcel along with 30.5 acres the town purchased and 8.92 acres from NCDOT are all connected to a larger 135-acre tract the town acquired through an agreement with Seabrook Development in November 2021. It makes up an unbroken, forested area of about 200 acres.
Leland spokesperson Jessica Jewell said these recent annexations serve as passive open space and were identified in Leland’s 2045 plan, adopted November 2021.
The plan shows large pockets of undeveloped green space scattered throughout the county which the town deems “suitable for environmental, scenic, recreation or conservation uses.”
Town planning and inspections director Ben Andrea said the plan describes a green framework that could host low-intensity development like paths.
“Generally the town’s perspective in acquiring these properties is it gives the town an opportunity to conserve them and gives us options for other recreational uses in the future,” Andrea said.
He pointed to the large area near I-140 as having a high potential for a massive multi-use path that could benefit residents and serve as a tourist attraction, though there are no formal plans in the works.
Andrea said the town is acquiring land now because it is not getting any cheaper — property values in Leland have increased by more than 52% since 2019 according to Brunswick County’s most recent estimate. If the town does not buy now, it could lose areas it wants to conserve to developers.
In the case of the town’s most recent acquisition, the parcel was zoned for rural residential in the county, earmarking it for agricultural use and limited residential development. When the town annexed the property, it changed the zoning to its conservation district.
“If the property owner had some long-term vision for development or desire to sell to someone else who wanted to develop it, and the town didn’t step in and buy it, then we lost that opportunity to ensure the conservation of those properties,” Andrea said. “We’re not saying for sure there will be active recreation opportunities on any or all of these parcels in the future, but even if that never happens there’s still some benefit to the town’s residents and visitors in acquiring these properties and keeping them in conservation.”
Andrea noted the I-140 properties provide some aesthetic benefit to the corridor and people passing through the town because they are flanked by native woods rather than developments on either side.
According to census data, Leland gained about 1,700 new residents last year and thousands of new housing units are working their way through the town’s planning process right now, including 2,769 units in the Burton Woods development alone. The town council will also consider annexing 2,100 acres at the request of a developer on Monday. Andrea said one of the services the growing population will demand is more park space, so the town has to act now.
“In places that have high populations or growing populations, the better approach in my opinion is to do what Leland is doing and be proactive about acquiring properties versus waiting until the need is there,” Andrea said. “Think about trying to establish a multi-use path that is miles-long. That can be pretty costly when you start to think about how many different property owners you’d have to negotiate with.”
Most of the town’s recent annexations can be viewed on this map and the conservation parcels mentioned in this story can be viewed as follows:
- 24: Donated by NCDOT in July, this 1.7-acre lot is located off U.S. Highway 17.
- 25: Donated by NCDOT in July, this 8.92-acre lot is directly north of the most-recent annexation.
- 31: Tract donated by NCDOT, this 99.48-acre parcel is located off Lanvale and Village roads.
- 51: Donated by NCDOT in July, this 0.28-acre lot is located at the intersection of State Road 1632 and Hazels Branch Road.
- 58: Two parcels located totaling 11.32 acres where Trade Street connects to I-140, purchased for $70,000 total.
The following parcels are not listed under recent annexations, but may be viewed by searching the parcel I.D. listed below in the Brunswick County geographic information system:
- 0290009503: Purchased for $50,000 in October, this lot covers 83.04 acres and is adjacent to annexation 31 listed above.
- 0460006009: The town acquired this 135-acre parcel North of the Seabrooke subdivision on November 18, 2021, through a development agreement with Seabook Development.
- 0460006010: Purchased for $85,000 last December, this lot covers 30.48 acres and is adjacent to Seabrook along I-140
- 04600028: Purchased for $200,000 in August, this parcel covers 27.74 acres adjacent to Seabrook and I-140.