UPDATE: City Council approves rezoning request that permits higher density development at Riverlights

Increased development density expected for Riverlights community

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Wilmington City Council approved a rezoning request proposed by Newland developers to allow mixed-use development in place of residential zoning on over 100-acres in the southern portion of the Riverlights property at a meeting Tuesday night.

The first reading to approve the proposed rezoning passed 6-1; Councilman Kevin Spears cast the dissenting vote.

“Anytime you go into any type of mixed-use development or master development, you need to make certain of what people are showing you with regards to mixed use,” said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. “Depending on where that mixed-used is to be—it specifically tells you if it’s apartments or condos—and where those townhomes will be located, because I believe it creates some angst.”

Residents in one of Wilmington’s most prominent neighborhoods objected to a third proposed change to the Master Development Plan in Riverlights, allowing for higher density housing.

Some felt the way the property was being continually developed went against the agreements they signed when building their property.

“When you look at the proposed commercial square footage, it’s totally different from what we were told was happening,” said resident Michael Sanclimenti. “We are losing our shopping centers, we are losing our commercial development and Riverlights is losing its character. "

Since the massive project’s initial approval 11 years ago, the allowed number of residences has increased by about 1,000 units.

Sharon Valentine and other homeowners obtained a permit to picket and express their frustrations Monday.

“The things that were promised, they spoke that this would be a lovely mixed-use community, residential as well as some of the condos but that it would be a community where you could walk to a grocery store, where you could ride your bikes, that it would reduce traffic. Well, just the opposite has happened,” Valentine said. “We felt we had bought into something, a contract if you will, that has been breached.”

Riverlights sent WECT the following statement last Thursday.

"Riverlights has remained in contact with residents regarding the proposed re-zoning of the parcel of land at the southern end of the Riverlights community. Our priority is to maintain communication with residents of Riverlights on the latest information about this project. Since our first meeting on July 30, 2020, we have encouraged residents to send their questions and concerns about the re-zoning to our project team who have been available to address each concern individually. Since then, we have received little to no correspondence from residents on our re-zoning efforts.

“Today, November 12, Riverlights is hosting another virtual community meeting from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and all are welcome to join. Richard Collier, PE with McKim & Creed, and Nick Cassala, VP of Operations for Riverlights, will be in attendance. They will be addressing residents' main concerns around the re-zoning efforts including environmental impact and traffic, as well as the details of what is being proposed, the reasons for the change, and how this will impact the lifestyle experience offered in Riverlights.

The zoning change will allow for another commercial and social gathering space like the Marina Village in the northern section. However, Valentine says she fears that the mixed-use code change will result in few actual commercial spaces and a greater number of apartments, as she believes has happened in other parts of the development.

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