LELAND — Leland Town Council will consider annexing the land proposed for the controversial Villages at Battleship Point project at its May meeting after the April hearing was postponed. The town officials took a vote Thursday to set the public hearing in response to the annexation request and as required by state statute.
“Like or not, we do what we have to,” Leland Mayor Brenda Bozeman said prior to the vote.
“At least for another month,” council member Veronica Carter added.
Explainer: What to know about Battleship Point
DBDL, LLC owns the property known as “Battleship Point,” an 8-acre dump yard in its current state on Point Peter. KFJ Development Group is under contract to purchase the land and has already begun efforts to clear it of debris. It intends to build a trio of towers along the Cape Fear River, outfitted with condos, a hotel and commercial space.
But there’s a hold-up: The land is zoned for industrial uses, not residences and businesses. It needs the jurisdiction it’s in to apply a new zoning district tailored to its visions of the property. New Hanover County, where the land currently exists, is considering the request to create a riverfront mixed-use district (RUMXZ), but leaders have proven to be in no rush to rezone the property.
Faced with the slowdown, developers took their shot at annexing the land into Leland.
But the Brunswick County town’s leaders don’t appear overwhelmingly enthusiastic about taking up responsibility for the controversial development. Its planning board was split in its vote to recommend the council adopt the text amendment to create a RUMXZ.
Councilor Carter said the council has received “literally hundreds of emails, if not thousands, at this point,” on Battleship Point. “I’ve lost count.”
KFJ Development told Port City Daily last week it postponed its efforts in Leland to further research what annexing the Town of Leland would mean.
“We want to make sure we’re not creating a challenge for us further down the road,” team member Kirk Pugh said. He declined to go into more detail as to what the obstacles may be.
In March, the council initiated the annexation process by passing a resolution to direct the town clerk to look into the sufficiency of the petition. This is another requirement of any annexation request based on the state statute.
“So, town council did not really have a choice in directing the town clerk to look into the sufficiency of the petition,” planning director Ben Andrea iterated at Thursday’s meeting.
During that process, town staff determined the land was close enough to Leland’s easternmost border to meet the geographic provisions of annexation. It also brought in a law firm to confirm the people who requested the annexation do own the property. The staff then presented a “certificate of sufficiency” to show annexation was possible.
The next steps are to hold the public hearing on the annexation and, if annexation moves forward, to assign the land as one of the town’s zoning districts. Andrea said council legally has to schedule the hearing and that is intentional to ensure the public has the opportunity to speak and to inform the decision on whether to or not to annex.
Andrea recommended the town proceed in the following order: The town would consider the annexation first. Then, leaders would make a decision on whether to pass the text amendment to create the RUMXZ. If the land is annexed, it would then determine what the newly annexed land should be zoned as. The planning board has recommended that, if the council gets that far, it is zoned as RUMXZ.
If KJF Development wants to postpone the public hearing again, the town could decline, Andrea clarified when asked.
The public hearing is set for the May 19 council meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in town hall.
Meanwhile, in New Hanover County, leaders held a work session in March to discuss its goals for the western banks of the Cape Fear River, largely focusing on Point Peter. Commissioners directed county staff to come up with zoning alternatives to creating the RUMXD, but a date for the next workshop has yet to be announced.
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