WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The City of Wilmington Planning Commission unanimously approved a new 184-unit development off of Echo Farms Blvd., near Carolina Beach Road, with several conditions during their Wednesday night meeting. The development now will go before City Council for final approval.
Planners also unanimously passed a motion to waive the requirement that sidewalk be installed along Carolina Beach Road, if the developer instead installed an equivalent amount, in cost, of sidewalk and improvements along Echo Farms Blvd.
City Code requires developers to build sidewalk along the roadway that their property boarders. In return for waiving the requirement for sidewalk along the Carolina Beach Road boarder which would not be used, the developer will instead extend the sidewalk on the Echo Farms Blvd boarder beyond where their property ends. Something, Echo Farms residents were pushing for.
More than a dozen people who live in the Echo Farms community spoke during the public comment section of the hearing. They expressed many concerns with the 184-unit development plans.
While most did not have an issue with the development itself, they were concerned that with only one entrance and exit into the development on Echo Farms Blvd., it would impact safety and traffic on the main roadway in their neighborhood.
Residents said there is only about 110 feet of sidewalk on Echo Farms Blvd., the road is narrow, not well-lit and many drivers use it as a cut thru from Carolina Beach Road to Independence Blvd. They said many in their neighborhood walk to the pool and tennis courts which are located across from the only proposed entrance to the development.
They were worried with many cars turning into and out of the development's single entrance every day, children who walk to the pool or bike through the neighborhood could be in danger.
They were also concerned about the additional traffic the entrance will bring. One resident said when there are swim and tennis meets there is a lot of congestion right where the planned entrance to this development is. He said drivers already use the road as a cut thru, and 184 more units would bring even more cars.
While there had been talk of building a second entrance to the development and have it connect to Carolina Beach Road, developers said NCDOT has jurisdiction over Carolina Beach Road, and it was their understanding the request would be denied. NCDOT spoke at the hearing saying they would deny the request.
While residents who were at the public hearing were disappointed about the second access, John Hirchak said he is happy that they will at least get more sidewalk in their neighborhood.
"They wanted to find a solution; I think it's a good solution it gives us something," said Hinchak. "Just give us something so that we can get our kids off of the road. We can get the residents off of the road and as far as the rest of it - we can get the City to do it."
He plans to ask the City to finish the sidewalks in their neighborhood, widen the roads, add stop signs and cross walks and more lighting.
"I didn't see much hope in getting a second entrance, but if you aren't going to give us a second entrance and you are going to congest our main road, then the least you can do is give us sidewalks, and now we will go to City Council and we will get that road widened, we will get curbing, and we will get them to put in the rest of our sidewalk, 42 years is an awfully long time for us to wait to get some sidewalks in our community."
He said while many wanted a second entrance to this new development, they are relieved that at least one step will be taken to alleviate their safety concerns.
Again, the development still has to go before City Council for final approval.