Staff photo by Allison Potter
Wilmington City Council approved changing the zoning of the lot at the northeast corner of Wrightsville Avenue and Military Cutoff Road from single-family residential to office and institutional for the development of a two-story office building at its Tuesday, March 4, meeting.
A long vacant corner of Wrightsville Avenue and Military Cutoff Road is one step closer to redevelopment after Wilmington City Council unanimously approved rezoning the lot for office and institutional uses.
The 1.78-acre lot at 1613 Military Cutoff Road and 6367 Wrightsville Avenue was previously zoned residential like the MacCumber Terrace neighborhood immediately to the east.
During city council’s March 4 meeting, Cindee Wolfe, the representative for property owner Vernell Green, said the Greens have owned the land since around 1900, and it would likely never be redeveloped under the residential zoning given the proximity to the heavy traffic of Military Cutoff Road.
The project applicant, Steve Anderson of the Wilmington-based SAMM Properties Inc., was not present at the meeting but the project proposed for the site consists of a two-story, 20,000-square-foot office building. With the approval of the zoning change, those offices could be used for business services, professional offices, medical offices and personal services.
Two access points are proposed for the project, one on Military Cutoff Road and one on Wrightsville Avenue. Several residents of the MacCumber Terrace neighborhood present during the meeting spoke against the proposed development because of traffic and buffering concerns.
“It is on an already overcapacity stretch of Military Cutoff Road,” said resident Bruce Cotton. “When you actually look at the two entrances there is going to be a lot of problems.”
An 8-foot fence already exists on the western border of MacCumber Terrace and additional buffering proposed by the developer includes a 10-foot fence west of the existing fence with new trees, like Leyland cypresses, planted between the two to create a wooded area.
That buffering, however, was not enough for MacCumber residents like Patricia Arnold.
“By having vegetation, a low wall and a high building, that would be a very big security issue,” Arnold said. “I would instead like to see a concrete wall like what is at Landfall.”
Those residents who spoke in favor of the development like Cindy Williams contested the development would create a better buffer for the light and noise intrusion from the Military Cutoff Road corridor.
Councilman Kevin O’Grady said he was concerned about the zoning change going against the recommendation of the Wrightsville Sound Small Area Plan, which calls for the lot to remain residential.
Assistant city planning director Ron Satterfield acknowledged changing the zoning would be in conflict with the plan but that city planning staff did not believe the lot could ever be redeveloped as residential.
Echoing Satterfield’s opinion, Councilwoman Laura Padgett said she was in favor of the zoning change because the proposed development was not as intrusive as another development may be.
“This is one of those cases where if we don’t approve it we are going to constantly be asked to approve additional projects that are more intrusive,” Padgett said.
In his motion to pass the zoning change, O’Grady included the provision that the developer consider planting evergreen shrubs taller than 12 feet in the buffer zone and exceeding the city’s minimum requirements for buffering.