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Proposal for mixed use development along Oleander Drive could bring change for many

Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 6:10 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A rezoning proposal for a new mixed-use development was approved Wednesday evening by Wilmington’s Planning Commission. What used to be a driving range could soon become a housing and retail area, but concerns are growing about traffic in the area.

“I think anybody who’s ever tried to make a left on Pine Grove Drive at 5:00 p.m. off of Oleander can tell you that traffic is already a bear and a nightmare right there,” said Patrick Brumsey, who lives near the site of the proposed development. Everybody has two cars so that’s gonna be another thousand potential vehicles on Oleander in a spot that’s already just about as clogged it could possibly be.

The application to rezone this property outlines a plan of nearly 340 apartment units and about 14,000 square feet of retail space.

As Wilmington continues to grow, many raised concerns about the traffic in the area because Oleander is already a busy road, but the developer has a plan for that — a stoplight on Oleander Drive where it intersects 51st Street. This will also include a crosswalk in an effort to make Wilmington a more walkable city.

“There’s already residential nearby, commercial facilities, retail and restaurants and all of that. We are trying to have a lot more walkable of a city in general so this helps have people close to services, and close to their workplaces, and close to the places that they want entertainment,” said Wilmington’s Planning Commission chair J.C. Lyle.

Lyle added that this would be the third stoplight added along Oleander because of recent developments.

If the rezoning is fully approved, a turn lane will be added on Oleander, and a bus stop at the entrance to the property.

McKay Siegel, the Wilmington partner with East West Partners, has been working on planning the development for about six months. He says he feels good about giving Wilmington an opportunity to grow.

“The closer that we can get people to where they ultimately work, shop, spend their time, that stops them from driving in from out of town from Hampstead, from Leland. from Ogden. or something to work at, you know, the hospital, or to work at one of the schools, or work downtown or something,” Siegel said.

Lyle says she agrees with Siegel’s plan and also wants more people who work in Wilmington to have a place to live within the city.

“Oddly enough, it’s a little bit counterintuitive, but having us build more inside the city limits where people are closer to the city limits — that actually decreases traffic over time because people are living closer to where they want to go, they don’t have to be on the road as long,” Lyle said.

The planning commission considered the city’s comprehensive plan that was developed back in 2016, with lots of public input about what residents want around town.

“Every project that comes through, we look at it against the comprehensive plan and that is really the strongest criteria we use to judge the projects that come before us and the planning commission for rezoning,” said Lyle. “Why would we rezone this? It goes along with the wishes of the public as expressed in the comprehensive plan or it doesn’t, and that’s a huge criteria for us and in this case it is definitely part of the comprehensive plan,” Lyle added. “We all know there’s an affordable housing crisis in the area and we need all the housing we can get. You have to go up — the city can’t expand anymore by annexation — we have to go up to create the density that will allow us to house all the people living here and moving here.”

The plan calls for at least ten percent of units in a development such as this to be reserved for workforce housing. Brumsey says if the city wants more employees to live nearby, then more room should be made for them.

“I think that the council members made a big emphasis on their need for workforce housing,” said Brumsey. “But this plan just meets the bare minimum of 10 percent. So if they’re really concerned with workforce housing why not make the developers make 20, 30, 40 percent workforce housing?”

Another proposal was considered in 2016 for student housing on that property, but there was not enough support and it lacked the proposed addition of a stoplight and crosswalk.

“I think that it’s an unnecessary intrusion into that otherwise residential area that backs up to Oleander,” Brumsey said.

Now that the city’s planning commission has approved the rezoning for the development, it will go to the city council for further approval.

You can click here to view the plans for the mixed-use development.

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