PELETIER — Mayor Dale Sowers said Friday he and town commissioners will be ready to listen to what is expected to be a huge crowd of people Monday night for a public hearing on a proposal to rezone the Silver Creek Golf Course and allow construction of up to 335 single-family home lots.
The board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in town hall off Highway 58 immediately after the planning board meeting at 6 p.m.
The mayor, who handles planning for the town, said he wants to give everyone who wants to speak on the rezoning a chance to do so.
“I’d like to try to put a stop to it by about 8:45, though,” he said. “Everyone deserves a chance to talk, as long as they aren’t repeating what someone before them has already said. I want to be fair.”
The planning board last month briefly discussed golf course owner Eddie McNeil’s proposal to rezone the approximately 200-acre course from B-1 (general business) to R-15 (residential, minimum lot size 15,000 square feet), and voted unanimously to send it to commissioners for consideration without a formal “yes” or “no” recommendation.
After the planning board meeting and the commissioners’ meeting that followed it last month, Mayor Sowers, speaking to a few residents who lingered after the sessions, said the commission could decide that R-15 is not the proper zone for the golf course land, but R-20 (residential, minimum lot size 20,000 square feet) might be.
Friday morning, he said, “I think everyone (on the commission) is probably leaning that way. I discussed it with Eddie McNeill and I believe he’d be fine with R-20.” R-20 would allow fewer homes, since the lots would be larger.
Silver Creek opened in 1986. Mr. McNeill, during those January meetings of the planning board and town commission, said he closed the golf course in September after damage from Hurricane Florence, and decided then to revisit a long-delayed idea to develop the property. Although he didn’t have a specific plan that night for commissioners or audience members to look at, he said he envisions homes in the 1,800- to 2,100-square-foot range, but noted the final number of lots is subject to many considerations, such as determination of wetlands and layout of roads.
The homes would connect to a private waste treatment plant in a corner of the golf course property, according to Mr. McNeill, and would get water from West Carteret Water Corp.
The development would be screened from adjacent homes by a 20-foot vegetative buffer.
Nearby residents, who packed town hall for that meeting, spoke against the proposal and criticized the planning board for forwarding the proposal to commissioners before there was a plan to look at. They promised to be back in even larger numbers for the public hearing Monday night.
One said she was concerned the project would change the whole character of the mostly rural town, and others said they were concerned about drainage and increased traffic.
Some have already weighed in with comments to the mayor before the hearing.
For example, resident Robert Walcott, who said he owns a home in the Silver Creek residential development along the golf course, emailed the mayor, commissioners and planning board members collectively, and stated that, “A land-use change may be acceptable if neighbors are involved and the plan is well conceived. A good development could occur if it is well conceived. The existing golf course seems to be financially weak.”
In the email, which he copied to the News-Times, Mr. Walcott also stated that, “The boundaries of the proposed zone change should be clear, and maps of existing conditions such as adjacent properties and improvements, streets, lots, golf course, open spaces, clubhouse, parking lot, pool, drainageways and other natural features should be clear.
“A plan should be developed (even if preliminary) before entitlements for 335 lots are approved. The property owner ultimately has the right to a reasonable use of his land, but not prior to doing sound plans. The numerous relevant issues should not be deferred from the zoning stage and should not all be deferred to the subdivision stage,” he wrote.
Planning board Chairman Floyd Dixon had said after the meeting last month that “passing on” the proposal to commissioners was not a positive or negative recommendation, and if commissioners vote to rezone the property, the planners will look at the subdivision proposal in detail.
Mr. Walcott, in his email, suggested that, “A zone change to allow 335 lots, such as R20 or other zones, should be informed first by a sound plan. Such a plan might include more than one base zone. Planning work as part of a rezoning would be small in relation to the total work and costs in a multi-million dollar development.”
He added that the town should consider a conditional-use planned development overlay zoning district, which would promote efficient patterns of land use to help ensure sensitivity to natural features, flexibility of design and accumulation of open space, language he said came from the county’s zoning ordinance.
In addition, Mr. Walcott wrote in the email that, “Neighbors should be kept informed of the process and be actively involved. Neighbors should easily be able to learn about the status of the application process. They should have easy access to basic project information, boundary map, pans, and public meeting and hearing dates well in advance, and how comments can be submitted.
“A page on the Town of Peletier’s web site could be set up with such information,” he said. “The proponent could help the City [sic] fund the establishment and maintenance of the web page. Neighbor outreach should provide input into the plan development process.”
He also said, “Helpful information for the public would include: What is the town of Peletier’s comprehensive plan for this area; and what are the required decision-making findings that must be made by the town to approve the rezoning and subdivision.”
Commissioner Bill Norris, speaking after the meetings last month, told residents that “growth is not new to us,” referring to several other residential subdivisions in the development stage off Norris Landing and West Firetower roads.
But, Mr. Norris added, “As a commissioner, I listen” to residents, and he encouraged them to show up for meetings “and work with us and (express) concerns about drainage and water quality.
“We need you to show up,” he emphasized. “I’m very concerned, too, and I do care.”
Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.