NEW HANOVER COUNTY —— A proposal to build four townhouse buildings with 16 total units – on a small lot less than a mile north of Snow’s Cut Bridge on Carolina Beach Road – has met with strong reluctance from the government. adjacent community aged 55 and over. .
The 1.5 acre plot is part of a wooded area nestled between single-family neighborhoods, one of them being Capeside Village, a retirement community established in 1993 where the average age of residents is 74.
It is currently R-15, but the developer is seeking approval to rezon it for mixed community use in a conditional zoning district.
Cindee Wolf, a local land use planning consultant with experience in representing development proposals from all sides, supports the project. In her pitch for these townhouses, she argues that undeveloped land facing Carolina Beach Road, like this one, is no longer attractive for single-family proposals. These infill development sites would benefit from higher density, which in turn could increase affordability, depending on the demand for townhouse rezoning.
The proposal comes as New Hanover County and Wilmington seek long-term solutions to a housing affordability crisis that has sparked calls for a housing bond and other intensive measures. Infill development has been championed by planners as a way to generate more housing options, at a time when large tracts of undeveloped land are very rare in New Hanover County, and nearly extinct in the city.
But for the people of Capeside Village, the townhouse proposal was received as a bad omen. Fred Ebbinhouser, the unofficially appointed representative of the Capeside Village community, wrote to Wolf to pass it on as such.
“I hope you took the opportunity to tour our community to see what 30 years of independent seniors can accomplish,” Ebbinhouser wrote in his letter, according to the application package. “We are very proud of our community and are ready, willing and able to fight using all legal means to protect our homes, our health and our rights.”
After Wolf sent a notice to neighboring landowners that there would be a rezoning application for his client’s townhouse project – a standard step in the development process – the community of Capeside Village prepared their opposition.
The president of the homeowners association called an emergency meeting, “where the community voted to form a petition committee in opposition to the project and in search of a lawyer specializing in land use issues and zoning, ”according to Ebbinhouser’s letter. They gathered 91 signatures to protest against the townhouses.
Drainage issues, proximity to wetlands, and stormwater management form the basis of Capeside Village’s resistance to townhouses and general NIMBY concerns.
“We do not wish any ill will on any neighbor and we do not wish to infringe anybody’s rights,” the letter read. “When our homes, our rights, our health, our community and our way of life are threatened in any way, we do not take it lightly or sit there without protesting or reacting.” The letter continues, asking Wolf to “cease and desist” the zoning change request.
After the meeting between the developers and neighboring landowners, Wolf said that “the developers are proactively reviewing the soil and the preliminary design for stormwater management,” but no changes have been made to the layout of the concept.
The Town Planning Council will review the townhouse application on August 5.
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