With a split vote, the Swansboro Planning Board voted 4-1 to recommend approval of a request to rezone three properties on Queens Creek Road.

The planning board functions in an advisory capacity. The request will now go to the town commissioners for a decision.

The planning board’s action came at a special meeting on Sept. 23. It was the second time the matter was brought to the town; the first was in August 2017. And the outcome was different. In 2017, the planners voted to recommend denial of the request. And the town commissioners agreed. The denial came in October 2017.

Junior Freeman, president of Emerald Coast Inc., spoke on behalf of the owners of the three properties. He proposed once again that the approximate 7.84 acres be rezoned from Residential-20 to Business-1. Freeman explained that, as it stands now, the only option is to build 6-8 houses on these properties. He continued by pointing out that his land would be more useful to the town if they were to be rezoned and his primary motivation was “the betterment of the entire community.”

The property is just south of N.C. 24 and across Queens Creek Road from Swansboro High School and Queens Creek Elementary School.

As was the case in 2017, traffic is the central concern for this project. In the two years since the case was first presented, not much has changed. In fact, both Freeman and the board readily admitted that traffic has only increased since the 2017 request.

The recent change in speed limit on nearby N.C. 24, from 45 mph to 35 mph, was mentioned as well. The board and owners agreed that this will hopefully make the road safer with or without this new construction, but it is too soon to tell what affect this will have on the area.

A possible stoplight at the entrance to the school was also discussed, though there are no details on when this would develop, if at all.

Nonetheless, the majority of the board members quickly agreed that this was the best use of the properties.

“The properties aren’t doing the owners any good right now,” said board member Brad Buckley. Ralph Kohlmann, chairman, agreed that this is a “natural use of the property,” and that this construction may be a tipping point for other safety measures, such as the stoplight or a sidewalk.

Laurent Meilleur, board member, stated that his only hesitation in this case was the traffic concern.

“It would just be making a bad situation worse,” said Meilleur. That being said, he also stated that he does not think this is a question of if, but rather when this property will be developed, and that if it were not for the traffic he would be “all for” this development.

Meilleur cast the lone dissenting vote.

The request will now be presented to the Swansboro Board of Commissioners along with the planning board’s recommendation for traffic improvement. The commissioners will once again make the final decision on the request.

Email Sandy Liddick at Sandy@thenewstimes.com.

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