Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Leland grew more than 10% in size after annexing 2,100 acres

The area outlined in red is the 2,100 acres an Alabama developer wants to annex into Leland’s town limits. (Courtesty Town of Leland)

LELAND — Leland Town Council absorbed a controversial parcel of land after a pair of public hearings on the issue Monday night.

The 2,100 acres off Malmo Loop and Colon Mintz roads, flanked by I-140 to the east, was first tapped as the site for a massive 5,000-home development called “East Lake.” When the area was unincorporated, it fell in Brunswick County’s rural residential zoning district.

READ MORE: Leland sets public hearing to annex 2,100 acres off Malmo Loop

That district allows for agriculture and a limited number of homes. Alabama-based Criteria Development asked Brunswick County to rezone the property to accommodate East Lake, but the county planning board shot down the project unanimously on Sept. 12.

At that point the developer looked to get the property annexed into Leland with zoning classifications that would allow for a housing development. Leland delivered.

The council approved both annexing the 2,100 acres and zoning it to include 1,365 acres for medium-density, single-family homes, 602 acres for conservation tracing protected wetlands in the area, 68.07 acres of the town’s special flexcode classification intended for town-center development, 56.77 acres of commercial space and 21.8 acres of multifamily zoning. The site will increase the town’s size by more than 10%, from 25.6 to 28.91 square miles.

The site backs up to 600 acres the board annexed in October, with a proposed 2,700-home development, Burton Woods, in the works.

Town planning and inspections director Ben Andrea told Port City Daily the town has not received an application proposing what will be built in the area yet. Once Criteria submits plans, it will work its way through the town’s technical review committee process.

Mayor Brenda Bozeman suggested residents remain aware as it goes through the TRC process, produce plans and studies before any development can happen on the site.

There were some concerns about the annexation during the public comment period. 

Roger Shew, who lives adjacent to the property, began by commending the town for annexing property for conservation, noting he read about the policy in a recent PCD story. However, Shew discussed dissatisfaction with some recent developments, pointing to photos of areas in town that have been cleared of trees and covered in burn piles.

“It had topography, wetlands, old trees, and there were plans to keep those things,” Shew said. “But that’s gone by the wayside. We feel betrayed by the promise of well-planned development that is now an eye sore.”

Shew claimed people in town and Brunswick County share his concerns that growth is happening too fast.

“You can’t undo bad development,” he said. 

He described the night’s votes as “perfunctory,” especially seeing as Brunswick County turned down the developer because the area is too dense and wet. He also gave the board photos of standing water he said were taken out of the 100-year flood zone.

“You are going to destroy our peace and our tranquility,” Leland resident Lana Humphrey added to the voices. “You’re going to bring in all kinds of population, you’re bringing in all kinds of noise and all kinds of pollution, thank you very much.”

Humphrey asked for a “statement of full responsibility” from everyone — from town council to the builder — to protect locals from any disasters arising from the development. Because the water table is high in the area, she suggested people who purchase homes in the development need disclosures if their homes fall in the 100-year flood zone.

A map outlining the flood zones shows the northernmost area of the site as well as the eastern boundary fall in the “A flood zone,” FEMA shorthand for the 100-year flood area. A flood study would be required along with FEMA approval before development can happen in those areas.

A map showing the flood zone within the site. (Courtesy Town of Leland)

The flood study is separate from stormwater engineering, also required for the site. Planning manager Ashli Barefoot said the development would not be allowed to push water on to neighboring properties.

Council member Veronica Carter asked if there would be any disclosures required for property owners who buy homes in the flood zone. Planning staff cannot comment on a disclosure as part of a private real estate transaction, but a federally backed mortgage would include flood insurance as a requirement for homes purchased in the flood zone.

Carter told PCD she spoke up about the disclosure for the public’s benefit and she wanted to get their concerns on the record.

“I have the advantage of having done my homework and read ahead,” Carter said. “I kind of got ahead of myself because the next motion showed the conservation district and everything else. That was just kind of my way of making sure that people understood there are safeguards already in place.”

No more public hearings are required for the property.


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