City council unanimously approves annexation, needs second vote

Amberleigh Shores preliminary site plan.
Amberleigh Shores preliminary site plan.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Wilmington City Council unanimously approved a request for voluntary annexation Tuesday night, but the vote to bypass a second reading of the issue did not pass unanimously.

New council member Neil Anderson voted to have city council revisit the issue at its January 17 meeting.

Flournoy Development has requested a voluntary annexation for its roughly 27 acre lot that sits about two miles outside city limits. An apartment complex with more than 200 units is projected for the land.

City council members listened to public comment about the proposed development Tuesday for close to an hour and a half. Most of those speaking on the subject live near the proposed development. Their grievances included traffic congestion on Market Street, overcrowding Ogden Elementary and generally disrupting the community.

Some in the audience scoffed when city staff said development would add about 26 more cars to Market Street daily.

Both Chairman and Vice-Chair of New Hanover County Commissioners also spoke out against the annexation. Chairman Ted Davis told city council that approving the annexation of the property would have a negative impact on the relationship between the two local governments.

Councilman Kevin O'Grady later mentioned that he expects the county to be "bigger than that" and not let it affect current cooperation on projects like building a stadium in downtown Wilmington to house a professional baseball team.

County Commissioners voted three to two to deny the developer's original request in March 2011. Now county leaders say the developer is working the system. The city approving this development after the county denied it would set a bad precedent, according to Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

Annexation is the first part of this two-tier project. Once annexation is decided, city council will have to consider rezoning the property. It's currently zoned for commercial use, but the developer wants it to be zoned for multi-family use.

A straight rezoning of the land, instead of issuing a conditional use permit, would have council trusting the developer to stay true to the original plans. A conditional use permit would set a specific number of units allowed on the property, but a general rezoning would not. Therefore, the developer could potentially increase the number of units to its maximum allowed by the zoning standard of nearly 400.

Regardless of the rezoning decision, the land will join the city's tax base if annexation is approved.

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