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NAACP, environmentalists oppose massive development on Cape Fear River

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 6:37 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A $700 million development proposed for the west bank of the Cape Fear River is stirring up controversy among environmentalists and justice groups.

The Villages at Battleship Point would add 20 stories worth of hotel rooms, shopping, restaurants and homes to a piece of land that’s a FEMA designated flood plain.

The NC Coastal Federation hosted a virtual meeting Tuesday afternoon sharing their take on the multi-use proposal that could come to the funnel point of the Cape Fear River and the North Branch of the Cape Fear River.

“If I had to pick a site that would be one of the most exposed to multiple hazards in this particular area, certainly that’s the spot right there,” said Dr. Rob Young, director of the program for the study of developed shorelines. “To make a long story short, I think it would be incredibly irresponsible to allow significant development of any kind in an area like this.”

Environmentalists with the NC Coastal Federation aren’t alone in their opposition. The first group to speak up about the multi-use development to county planners was actually the NAACP.

In their ten page letter, they cited state climate studies, and explained concerns about increased nuisance flooding, stronger storm surge on the Cape Fear, and the threat of the rising sea level.

The letter also talks about the property’s cultural value and the delicate ecosystems for fish and shellfish in channels dug by the Gullah Geechee people.

The civil rights organization alleges disparities in disaster preparedness and protection could potentially get worse with heavy construction on the flood plain, and the costs to recover from future flooding disasters could come at a higher cost to some New Hanover County citizens.

“We as taxpayers have to go in and pay to recover the damages that occur after the flood rebuilding infrastructure dealing with public health issues,” said Brayton Willis, chairman of the Brunswick County NAACP’s environmental and climate justice committee. “All of these come off the backs of our taxpayers and, as I said in our letter, those that are less fortunate in our area income wise pay the steepest burden.”

Both groups agreed that not all development of the property would be bad, but they’d rather see something with a smaller footprint.

With countless hoops for advocates and the developers alike to still jump through, there’s ample time to see whose hopes for the property hold water.

The developers are still in the process of rezoning the strip of land, and creating a new zoning category into which the Villages at Battleship Point would fit. The rezoning proposal will go before the planning board at their next meeting on December 2.

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