Monday, June 24, 2024

Flooding, traffic a concern for residents as 550 homes are approved in Brunswick County

Brunswick County planning board approves development of 550 new single-family homes in Shallotte. (Courtesy Brunswick County)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — The construction of 550 single-family homes have been greenlit in Brunswick County. 

At the May 13 planning board meeting, the board unanimously voted to approve its third housing development since April. Since then, a cumulative 918 single family homes have been approved for the county — 186 single-family homes in Holden Beach and 182 townhomes near Calabash.

McMullan Tract will be situated 11 miles away at the southwestern section of Ocean Isle Beach Road and consist of 376 conventional single-family homes and 174 semi-attached homes (single-family residences sharing a common wall). It’s being proposed by Norris and Bland Engineering; Jody Bland was at the meeting to address concerns. 

The homes will be built on 249 acres of land, though more than 100 acres will be designated as open space, with 13.86 acres reserved for recreational purposes. These allocations double the requirement specified in Brunswick County’s development ordinances. 

A few planning board members took issue over community concerns, though at the end of the day passed it through with conditions for the developer. 

“This development is going to put a burden on existing homeowners in the area,” planning board member Clifton Cheek said. “ I don’t think they’re all the way there. But given the fact that we don’t have the egress, emergency access worked out — I’m just, I’m not comfortable with it.” 

The development is next to the Lakewood Estate neighborhood and will have a main entrance on Ocean Isle Beach Road, with another entrance on Lakewood Drive through the Lakewood Estate neighborhood. According to Brunswick County Principal Planner Marc Pages, who presented to the board, this secondary access point will be gated and reserved solely for emergency use.

Five residents from Lakewood Estate spoke in opposition. Their apprehensions centered on significant traffic impact the development would pose, potential issues with the emergency entrance and, most notably, regarding stormwater runoff and flooding. Flooding is something they emphasized is already prevalent in the area. 

“Where is all the water going to go?” Lakewood Estate resident David Way asked the planning board members.

Flooding on Lakewood Drive is constant, residents said. Michael Laganva remarked it has been severe enough previously to prevent people from accessing their homes. 

“We got a big rain in the last year and there was old people sitting roadside because they can’t get to their house,” he said.

The developer acknowledged water accumulation.

“They have a little bit of flooding problems on the off side of that kind of northwest edge,” Bland said. “In a high-flood rain event, the water runs across the road.”

Planning board member Cheek sided with the residents.

“My concern is if we approve this new development, as it exists, there’s no guarantee that the mitigation from a floodplain perspective is going to alleviate or not become a higher burden for the existing homeowners,”

According to Pages, the plan includes adding stormwater control measures that are designed to accommodate the 100-year- storm event. The developer agreed to initiate road maintenance and repairs on Lakewood Drive to address flooding concerns. 

Linda Roth, a resident of Lakewood Estates since 2003, was worried over the condition of the privately owned road. Roth stated that it is in danger of sinking in heavily eroded spots and has a lot of potholes. 

“We don’t want more traffic on our roads, making them worse and clogging up our one way in and out,” she said.

Lakewood Estates only has one entrance and exit, through Ocean Isle Beach Road. 

“It’s also a shame that no one is concerned about us not having an alternate exit for emergencies,” Roth told Port City Daily after the meeting. 

According to the staff’s report, a majority of the concerns were brought to the developer at a voluntary neighborhood meeting in April. Roughly 50 people attended.

Martha Russ, a resident of Lakewood Estate, described the gathering in an email as “a fiasco.” 

“Everybody was talking on top of each other and nothing was accomplished,” she wrote to PCD.

The developer told staff in an email the main concerns from the neighborhood meeting were “clearcutting of the site; stormwater impacts to downstream/adjacent projects; and the emergency connection with Lakewood Estates.” 

The document included the developer’s response to some of the issues. Regarding clear-cutting, he reassured the community that vegetated buffers would be established around the property. While acknowledging the necessity of some clear-cutting, Bland said it would contribute to improved drainage and water catchment. They also committed to preserving all wetland areas, except those required for crossings.

Additionally, the planning board added the street connectivity condition, stating a point must be established at the rear end of Lakewood Drive. As with all developments, it mandated compliance with Brunswick County Unified Development ordinances, adherence to all plans and features submitted to the county, and alignment with all federal, state, and county approvals.

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