EI commissioners: Transportation Impact OK to expand building - News-Times: News

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EI commissioners: Transportation Impact OK to expand building

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Posted: Friday, January 11, 2019 12:00 pm

EMERALD ISLE — Despite a couple of negative comments from the public, town commissioners Tuesday night voted 4-0 in separate motions to approve a rezoning request and a site plan for a 16,000-square-foot, three-story addition to the Transportation Impact building on Crew Drive.

Action came during the board’s monthly session in the meeting room beside the police station and followed a public hearing on the rezoning request – no one spoke – and informal comments, allowed by Mayor Eddie Barber, on the site plan.

Transportation Impact, a 10-year-old, rapidly growing business that helps other companies manage their shipping and shipping costs, is now free to begin site work on the property, adjacent to its existing three-story building, but can’t start construction of the addition until it submits and the town formally approves exact plans for the addition.

Before the votes, Town Planning Director Josh Edmondson told commissioners the company’s basic plan meets all the town requirements – parking spaces, setbacks and the like – but Transportation Impact officials have not yet submitted plans that show things like color schemes and elevations, so construction can’t start until those are approved.

“They are a few months behind on the design,” he said, “but they are wanting to get started” on site preparation and installation of utilities, including connection to an existing waste treatment plant that serves the nearby Emerald Plantation shopping center.

“We hope to get those (final plans) to the planning board (at the end of) this month and then to the commissioners in February for approval,” Mr. Edmondson said.

The objections from the public were not to the rezoning from B-1 (general business) to Village West (VW) – classifications that are very similar – of the company’s new parcel adjacent to its existing building. No one commented during the formal public hearing on the rezoning.

Rather, when the site plan came up for a vote, two speakers made informal comments about the overall philosophy of allowing the Transportation Impact expansion project, even though the existing zoning classification would have allowed it. TI requested the zoning change so its side-by-side parcels would match, and all the other adjoining properties are also zoned VW.

“I don’t think it’s consistent with the feeling that Emerald Isle gives,” said Jim Hackett, who lives on Ocean Drive. “I love Transportation Impact … but when you come into town and see that building…

And now it’s going to double in size? I just don’t think it’s appealing as one of the first things you see.”

The VW zone is intended to foster a mix of land uses, such as residential, retail and office space. The existing building has a restaurant on top, and the addition will allow an expansion of that restaurant. The rest of the new building will be offices.

Mr. Hackett said he’d like to see some retail on the bottom floor.

“I don’t see how it (the company’s plan) fits with our 20-year plan,” he said. “I’d like to see them soften it, make it maybe more touristy.”

Richard Gallucci, who lives in Point Emerald Villas, said the “industrial” development calls into question whether Emerald Isle ultimately wants to be a family-oriented beach town or “open up to commerce.”

If the town continues to allow this type of growth, he said, it risks losing its “small-town,” homey feel and could lose “something we had and we have loved.”

But Jay Thomas, who said he was a good friend of Mr. Hackett, disagreed.

The restaurant on the top of the building, Caribsea, is a great one, a mixed-use in and of itself, and it’s going to expand, he said.

“I’d rather see this than another T-shirt shop,” he said.

Commissioner Jim Normile, who chaired the committee that guided development of the town’s most recent land-use plan, said he appreciated the comments.

He said only about 9 to 10 percent of the town’s land mass is available for commercial development, however, and the expansion would not change the overall character of the town.

“I think it will (be) anti-climactic in the end,” he said.

Mayor Pro-Tem Floyd Messer made the motion to adopt the site plan, despite the objections. Joining him were Mr. Normile and fellow commissioners Candace Dooley and Mark Taylor. Steve Finch was absent and Mayor Barber votes only to break ties.

Mr. Edmondson said he expects Transportation Impact will first build its new parking lot for employees on another new parcel it bought on the other side of Crew Drive, then demolish its existing parking lot and undertake the project to bore under Crew Drive and tie into the Emerald Plantation sewer plant, which is owned by Aqua N.C.

That work, which will likely take one day, will be done either in February or April, before Easter, or in early May, to avoid disrupting traffic during Easter weekend or during the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival in March at Emerald Plantation, Mr. Edmondson said.

The town planning board during its November meeting recommended approval of the rezoning petition and the site plan.

Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email Brad@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

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