NEW HANOVER COUNTY — After some back and forth last month, the developers behind Battleship Point have officially withdrawn a request to annex its riverfront land into Leland. The 8-acre tract, which does not have sewer and water infrastructure, would likely be ineligible for connection to Cape Fear Public Utility Authority if it was in the town, posing a challenge for the developers.
“We appreciate very much the hard work put-in by the Town Council, the Planning Board and the Planning Staff,” Kirk Pugh, the real estate broker on the three-person KFJ Development team, wrote in an email. “The ongoing logistics around providing utility services to Battleship Point made annexation into the Town of Leland more problematic than originally anticipated.”
Pugh did not respond to a request for more explanation behind the utility concerns.
Since Leland was not part of establishing CFPUA, the provider is not legally obligated to extend water and sewer service to the development, or any construction project, if it was annexed by the town. New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington — jurisdictions party to CFPUA’s creation — would need to consent to such, along with the authority board.
“This requirement is in CFPUA’s founding charter,” CFPUA spokesperson Cammie Bellamy said. “It is designed to preserve valuable water and sewer system capacity for City and County customers first.”
If Battleship Point is developed in unincorporated New Hanover County, CFPUA would provide the water and sewer service, Bellamy confirmed.
“Typical for any new development, the developer is required to extend the water and sewer lines to their development and convey those lines to CFPUA to own and operate once that infrastructure is completed,” she continued.
Update, May 16: A spokesperson for H2GO, the Town of Leland’s water and wastewater utilities partner, said the company has not been approached about the potential for sewer and water at the Battleship Point on Point Peter and said it is “highly unlikely H2GO would provide services to this property.”
The Villages at Battleship Point is an ambitious project to build three towers with residences and commercial space opposite downtown Wilmington on an existing dump yard along the Cape Fear River. Before the project can move forward, the land must be rezoned, as only industrial uses are allowed on the site under the current district. The developers asked both New Hanover County and Leland to consider a new “riverfront mixed-use” zoning that would allow for the developer’s vision, a proposal that touts a hefty contribution to either jurisdiction’s tax base.
The project moved through the Leland Planning Board with a favorable recommendation, despite much debate. In April, KFJ Development said it was postponing the process in Leland, but days later, it appeared back in when the council unenthusiastically scheduled the hearing for the annexation on May 19. When the final agenda was released Thursday, the annexation did not appear on the docket.
Meanwhile, New Hanover County has essentially paused public discussions about the riverfront mixed-use district, or RUMXZ. It will eventually hold a work session with the commissioners, open to attendees, to talk about development scenarios and processes for the west banks of the Cape Fear River.
According to a county spokesperson, New Hanover County’s Planning and Land Use Department is working with the board’s clerk to calendar the next meeting date.
“While we are not ruling Leland out entirely, we are focusing our efforts on New Hanover County and are hopeful to have some answers soon,” Pugh said.