Porters Neck mixed-use plan delayed

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

After New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson raised questions about the integrity of the development plans presented for a mixed-use development proposed for Porters Neck Road, the applicant requested to postpone the vote. 

During the board’s Monday, March 10 meeting, project developer, Greensboro-based ACI Pine Ridge LLC, requested a special use permit for the inclusion of residential units on a 37.9-acre lot solely zoned for business and commercial uses. 

Dawson voiced concerns that the proposed mixed-use plans to include 273 multifamily residential units and 40,000 square feet of non-residential space were not final plans and not certified by a licensed engineer. 

Neil Shepherd, the principal at Blue Ridge Engineering and project engineer, said the drawings and site plans were marked as conceptual and were not the final plans. Shepherd said those final building plans would come later but Dawson said the board should be able to review the final plans before approving a special use permit to allow residential units. 

“This board is being asked by you to make a final decision for a special use permit for this project and for my review it potentially looks like a great project,” Dawson said. “However, in order to make well-informed decisions we rely on the documents we review to be complete and contain the certifications required by law.”

Dawson asked why the county planning staff had not required the developer to include the certified final plans. County manager Chris Coudriet said developers usually do not include final building plans until after permits are approved. 

“I will now say publicly what I have said privately on many occasions: Your process is governed by your ordinances, not by state regulations for professional licenses agencies,” Coudriet said. “I would ask you that, before you place additional requirements on the development community, you fully understand the potential cost of those decisions.”

After her request, Matt Nichols, the attorney representing ACI Pine Ridge LLC, said the development team would prefer to postpone the vote until a later date so the team could address those concerns. 

Prior to Dawson’s comments, a few of the many Porters Neck residents present at the meeting voiced concerns about the development. Opponents, wearing white shirts, cited possible traffic impacts and pointed out the developer had originally only proposed to build a commercial development.  

Porters Neck resident Betty Bauereis said those against the development would rather see the wholly commercial development planned for the area in 2007 instead of adding more apartments in the area. 

“This is not a good idea here because of the traffic impacts early in the morning and late in the afternoon,” Bauereis said. “While mixed-use is the darling of the planning community, its success depends on the specific area.”

The developer’s traffic impact analysis projected the mixed-use development would cause less of an impact on traffic than a solely commercial development. However, Chairman Woody White was skeptical of that result and requested supporting data for the projection when the request surfaces again during the board’s June 16 meeting. 

email cole@luminanews.com 

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