Commissioners table discussion on development of the Cape Fear’s west bank

Plan to develop west bank of Cape Fear River discussion tabled by commissioners
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 10:57 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A conversation about the future of the west bank of the Cape Fear River was abruptly put on pause Monday night.

The developers behind the Villages at Battleship Point proposal were slated to appeal the planning board’s denial of their text amendment before the New Hanover County commissioners.

Each of the 100 chairs was full, and the commission meeting was standing room only, until commissioner Rob Zapple introduced a motion that passed unanimously to table the discussion. Minutes into the meeting, the previously packed house quickly emptied out.

“It’s disappointing because it means a delay in the progress on the project,” said Kirk Pugh of KFJ development group.

“I’m glad they tabled it in order to get more studies on it because I think it needs much more study,” said Carl Parker of the Brunswick County NAACP

The developer hoping to build the Villages at Battleship Point, and the NAACP fighting the development on the flood plain, do agree on one thing: The text amendment up for discussion Monday night isn’t so much about this particular project, but on the bigger vision for the delicate ecosystem across the river from historic Wilmington.

“I think we’re looking for a permanent solution over there and I take it on the commission, which has not given a good vision to our planning department, and they need guidance as to what exactly we would like to see on those pieces of property,” said commissioner Rob Zapple.

Kirk Pugh of KFJ Development Group says they’re well aware of what they’re up against in building on the Peter’s Point property.

“We are very cognizant and respectful of the items that have been brought to bear, so sea level rise, potential for flooding due to storm events, the delicate nature of the environment that we’re willing — that we’re attempting — to build on and we will have to answer to all of those issues,” said Pugh.

Even if they clear the rezoning step, they still have plenty of obstacles to overcome in the rigorous permitting, design and construction process, explained Pugh.

However, it’s work the development group believes is worth it to transform the former industrial site into what they hope will be a symbol of what’s to come.

“What we will leave New Hanover County with when we’re done is something better than what is there now, and we will set a precedent for future development over there that will be more environmentally friendly, more resilient, and quite honestly sort of a shining star for Wilmington and New Hanover county,” added Pugh.

Leaders say a joint work session is expected to be announced in the future, where people on both sides will be able to present material to staff and commissioners.

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