Mixed-use request nixed

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Staff photo by Joshua Curry  

The former Scotchman gas station property on West Salisbury Street was denied mixed-use development by the Wrightsville Beach Planning Board on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

A request to allow residential space on the first floor of a potential mixed-use development received an unfavorable recommendation from the town of Wrightsville Beach Planning Board on Tuesday, Sept. 3. 

In planning a mixed-use development for the old Scotchman and gas center site on West Salisbury Street, developer Dennis Moeller and architect Blair Goodrich petitioned the town for an ordinance text amendment to the “Mixed Use Commercial-Residential” definition found in the Unified Development Ordinance to allow for the change.  

Goodrich was present at the planning board’s Tuesday meeting and said he and Moeller have found the only thing people are interested in renting on Wrightsville Beach are residential or office units, and that commercial units would not sell. Goodrich said he and Moeller would like to develop a two story mixed-use structure with six units, three on the first floor and three on the second, and only two of the first floor units being commercial or office. 

Mark Bodford of Intracoastal Realty was also present at Tuesday’s meeting representing Kenan Properties Inc., the property owner, and urged the planning board to consider the text amendment because of the environmental remediation involved with fuel tanks in the ground for so many years. 

“There are a lot of environmental issues we will have to deal with too and Dennis is willing to do that,” Bodford said. 

Although Bodford and Goodrich said they would prefer the development to be solely residential, town planning and parks director Tony Wilson said the property could not be rezoned from mixed-use to residential because the minimum lot sizes in the residential zonings would be too large to be feasible for that site. 

The members of the planning board were reluctant to pass a favorable recommendation on to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen for a final decision because of the ramifications any mixed-use ordinance amendment would have on every other mixed-use zone in the town. 

“If we give a favorable recommendation that would apply across the board,” said board member Allen Rippy. “We need to see if [the board of aldermen] could give us some information about how we could move forward with looking at individual properties in the future.”

The board of aldermen will be presented with the planning board’s request for more guidance on dealing with the mixed-use ordinance on a case-by-case basis at the aldermen’s next meeting on Sept. 12. 

Prior to the planning board’s regular meeting, a joint meeting between the planning board and the board of aldermen was held to discuss certain repeated town planning issues like street end improvements, right of way access and the abilities of churches to use their parking lots as a fundraising mechanism. 

The idea of forming a policy to allow residents to petition for street end and public water access improvements arose when David Culp, a former planning board member, surveyed resurfaced street ends. 

Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti said previously the town’s concerns about establishing a policy for residents to request a street end water access point was the monetary cost the town would incur on maintaining that infrastructure. 

Alderman Darryl Mills said he would also be concerned about the cost going forward if a large number of these additional public access points are requested, as well as what the town would be liable for. An attorney, Mills said the town would be immune to any kind of lawsuit if it is providing a governmental function and if there were an open and obvious defect in the access facility like a crack in a set of stairs. However, the town would be liable for something not obvious like slippery steps. 

Tony Wilson said the planning department would want to contract an architect to design a unified system that could be used at any new public access. 

After discussion, the boards decided the planning board and town staff would further investigate the matter to develop a possible policy to bring before the aldermen. 

The planning board and town staff will also begin working on forming a policy outlining if and when churches in the town may charge or take donations from beachgoers for parking in their lots. 

Wilson said the churches have repeatedly been approached about applying for permits to do so but that none have.

Mills and Alderwoman Susan Collins said they did not want the churches competing with the town for parking revenues but none of the board members took issue with the churches charging for parking on select days to be determined. 

email cole@luminanews.com 

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