Tuesday, July 23, 2024

YMCA seeks rezoning of 53 acres in northern part of county

YMCA is looking to expand in the northern region of the county, with commissioners taking up its rezoning request at Monday’s meeting. (Courtesy NHC)

[Update: Commissioners passed the rezoning unanimously on Monday, June 3.]

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — A community organization is looking to serve more people in a growing part of the county considered the “Last Frontier” — or the last chunk of available land in the second smallest county in the state. 

READ MORE: NHC planning board tables supportive housing amendment over neighborhood concerns

Sam Franck of Ward and Smith is representing the YMCA of Southeastern North Carolina and property owner Corbett Package Company in a request to rezone 53 acres on more than 240 in the 6600 block of Sidbury Road. YMCA is under contract to purchase 25 acres to construct a new facility, double the size of its Market Street home.

But to do so the land needs to be rezoned to a community business district from its current low-density residential.

Zachary Dickinson, senior planner for New Hanover County, noted during a May 2 planning board meeting the low-density residential zoning was put in place 50 years ago when wells were primarily used in the area. However, the county has added sewer and water capacity in recent years with CFPUA in its attempt to bring growth to the northern region.

“There are no community-oriented businesses to service residents in the area,” Dickinson told the planning board.

This section of the county has been recognized as community mixed use within New Hanover’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan. A rezoning will bring in commercial amenities to serve roughly 2,800 homes being built in Sidbury Crossing, Sidbury Farms and Sidbury Station. Currently, those residents have to travel 3 miles or more to the Northchase area to reach a grocery store and other amenities. 

“Recreation and health are critical components to the comprehensive plan,” Franck told the planning board.

However, all 52 acres are being requested in the rezoning, not just the Y’s half. Staff noted in its recommended approval this could foster complementary uses, such as pharmacies, restaurants, banks and grocery stores, which would then be allowed by-right.

No one spoke at the planning board meeting for or against the rezoning.

Planning board members had a brief discussion about it being a straight rezoning, meaning a concept plan isn’t required from the applicant. Additionally, the land will be rezoned even if the YMCA build-out falls through.

Traffic is expected to generate 71 morning trips and 186 evening trips for the fitness facility, whereas if other commercial development was added — such as a food market — it could bring 129 morning trips and more than 400 evening trips. A traffic impact analysis would be required if developed with multiple land uses; however, TIAs are not required in straight rezonings.

Franck told the planning board the immediate traffic will be coming from neighborhood nodes, not traveling long distances to clog too many other roadways.

Vice chairman Peter Avery pointed out he was comfortable with the straight rezoning as other commerce is needed in the area. It also aligns with the county’s goal to maintain new business growth within 2.5% of the state.

“I’m a big fan of the Y,” board member Clark Hipp said, adding he coached kids from the organization before. “My concern with straight rezoning is there is just not a lot of land in the county. The risk should fall on the development team and not the community. … The applicant should provide the information on how they’re developing the property.”

Board member Hansen Matthews said the board needed to get it right. 

“It’s the last unpainted canvas we have,” he said. “One of the things that concerns me as a community member is that we could possibly end up with urban sprawl, with no places for kids go outside and play in a park.”

Planning board member Cameron Moore said from a service standpoint it made sense for the Y to be there. The closest place residents could visit a work-out facility is in Porters Neck or Hampstead.

The rezoning passed the planning board 6-1, with Hipp dissenting.

At the county commissioner’s agenda review meeting Thursday, May 30, Rob Zapple took up concern of the straight rezoning as well and asked why it wasn’t considered for conditional rezoning.

“In our experience, it’s common for larger tracts of land,” development review supervisor Robert Farrell said. “Their intent was for a general rezoning for a community business district because that would be better for the whole parcel.”

It was added the applicant’s intent was to leave it flexible for future development.

“As far as I can see, this is just good news for everyone up there,” Zapple added.

“If you look at the list of uses in the CB district, there’s nothing like it there,” Chair Bill Rivenbark added.

The commissioners will take up a vote on the rezoning at its Monday meeting.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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