WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A request to rezone and develop land once used as recreational space for the Creekwood North community into a mixed-use housing development was denied at a meeting Wednesday night.
The project has faced opposition in the past from city staff and the Wilmington Police Department.
The proposal, which includes 100 residential units and 1,800 square feet of neighborhood commercial uses, eyed for just under five acres of land off Kornegay Avenue, initially went before the Wilmington Planning Commission last month with a request to be rezoned from a residential district to an office and institutional-1 conditional district.
At the initial meeting, two people spoke in favor of the project while four spoke out against it, citing concerns with density, property values and crime, according to planning commission documents. The applicant ultimately requested a continuance to allow time to meet with the community.
A revised proposal, which lowered the proposed unit count to 82, was considered by the commission Wednesday evening.
At Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting, leaders and community leaders alike continued to share concerns about traffic and safety.
Documents included with the agenda explained the city’s concerns about the project and foreshadowed the request’s denial.
At the October Planning Commission meeting, a representative of the Wilmington Police Department (WPD) said the department was studying current conditions in the Creekwood area, specifically focusing on service call volumes for Cypress Cove Apartments, a private sector housing complex recently built on property to the west of Creekwood, and two other private sector apartment complexes of similar size and density.
The study found that from Jan. 1, 2019 to Nov. 4, 2019, there were 350 calls for service at Cypress Grove – eight times more than the amount for one of the other complexes studied and nearly four times more than the other.
“This service call evaluation has led the WPD to oppose the location and density of the project, and its concentration of additional high density multi-family housing in this area of the city,” a document summarizing the police department’s evaluation states.
The police department did indicate, however, it would not oppose the project if it were conditioned only to senior citizen housing.
“WPD experience indicates that housing limited to senior citizens only is associated with much lower incidences of crime than non-age-restricted housing,” the document states.
For their part, the developer noted affordable housing “is at a deficit” in Wilmington, according to the rezoning application.
“The strategies for a diverse and thriving economy suggest that supporting alternative housing options is a positive means for achieving the goals of providing more affordable housing for the workforce,” the applicant wrote as justification for the request.
While acknowledging the need for affordable housing, Wilmington staff has recommended denying the project, pointing, among other reasons, to city policies and a federally-required fair housing assessment completed in 2016 that found concentrating low income, affordable and work force housing in areas of high poverty “serves to isolate those areas from the city as a whole and reinforces segregation.”
“The undesirable consequences of concentrating ‘low wealth’ housing in one area have been recognized by housing authorities, social service agencies, and law enforcement officials for several decades,” the agenda document states.
Staff also cited the proposed density of the project as another reason for its recommendation to deny the proposal.
“The design and scale of the proposed multi-family structures present an abrupt change in density from six units per acre on one side of the street to approximately 20 units per acre directly across the same street (in Creekwood),” the document states. “The proposed density is not compatible with the existing community fabric and does not provide for an appropriate transition from the adjoining single-family neighborhood.”
Staff listed several conditions for the project, should the commission approve the request. One condition mirrored the police department’s recommendation that the housing be limited to residents age 55 and older.
The developer appears to be considering that option. According to a summary of a community meeting held in September, neighbors and the developer discussed tenants being "primarily the elderly.”
At the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, the developer clarified the apartments would be market rate, despite pointing to the city’s lack of affordable housing in earlier applications.
Though the request to rezone the area for the commercial mixed-use project was denied, the land could still be developed into housing as its currently classified as a “residential district” by the commission.