WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - After an extended discussion, the Wilmington City Council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to approve a rezoning request for a mixed-use project on Masonboro Loop Road.
The property, which is about 1.90 acres, is located at 3380 and 3400 Masonboro Loop Road and sits across from Fire Station 15.
The mixed-use development will include three structures containing 4,800 square feet of commercial space and five residential units. The commercial spaces will be limited to office and professional services.
Representing the developer, Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions explained the development aims to create a live-work atmosphere, allowing business owners to reside above their establishments.
Wolf said the development is a "small scale" mixed-use plan because it has conditions to prohibit retail or restaurants, and the structures will be "residential style buildings."
She added that only 60 percent of the parcel is being developed, and there will be full vegetative buffers.
At a July 11 meeting, the Wilmington Planning Commission held a public hearing on the development and recommended the rezoning with conditions.
City staff said the development addresses several of the goals laid out in the Wilmington comprehensive plan and is an "appropriate transition" between the residential area and neighboring commercial areas.
During the public hearing, neighbors expressed concern at developing a commercial complex so close to several neighborhoods as well as concerns over traffic during carpool hours at Walter L. Parsley Elementary School, which is located nearby.
Councilor Charles Rivenbark, who voted against the rezoning, said he was concerned about the precedent that approving such a conditional use would set.
Rivenbark said he would like to see the area stay mostly residential, and said he is afraid other developments will follow the lead of the mixed-use project.
"That street does not need to become a commercial corridor," Rivenbark said. "It's neighborhood. There's a school, a fire department … It's all neighborhood, and that's the way it needs to stay. I don't like this."
City staff and Wolf noted that because all conditional use rezoning cases are unique and must be approved by the city, the risk of setting a precedent is low.
Additionally, Wolf said, the limitations on the types of businesses and the design of the structures are designed to keep the property as residential-looking as possible.
Property owner and real estate agent Regina Drury explained that because she plans to live there herself, making the property as aesthetically pleasing as possible has been her goal from the beginning.
Drury said she purposefully added wide porches on the exterior of the buildings and decided to save the large pecan trees on the property to give the area as much of a community feel as she can.
Rivenbark and others questioned city staff over the exact nature of the neighborhood and how it related to the comprehensive plan.
Council ultimately approved the measure 5-1 on first read, waiving the second read.