MOREHEAD CITY — A coalition of four neighborhood homeowners’ associations has organized to oppose a rezoning request on Highway 24 that could eventually lead to the development of a marine retailer and an independent senior living community.
In February, the Morehead City Planning Board recommended the conditional rezoning request for 301 Highway 24, submitted by Bryan Starling on behalf of the property owner, Mary Lynn Osteen. The request seeks to change the zoning of the approximately 23-acre property from single-family residential to commercial and multi-family residential districts.
With the planning board’s recommendation secured, the request next goes before the Morehead City Council for a hearing and final decision Tuesday, April 13. The council meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the council chambers of the municipal building at 202 S. 8th St.
The plan, as presented by Mr. Starling in February, is to expand his marine wholesale company, Starling Marine, on half the property. The other half of the property would be developed by Ridge Care Senior Living, which proposes building an independent senior living community with around 70 units.
However, residents of nearby Spooners Creek and other neighborhoods strongly oppose the proposition, and many either wrote letters or showed up to the virtual planning board meeting in February to express their opposition. Now, four neighborhood homeowners’ associations – Old Spooners Creek, Spooners Creek North, the Shores at Spooners Creek and the Woodridge subdivision – are banding together forces to make their position known.
The coalition has placed road signs near the property along Highway 24 and elsewhere throughout Morehead City. There’s also a change.org petition circulating with more than 350 signatures as of Friday afternoon.
Maury Wolff, a longtime resident of Spooners Creek and president of the Old Spooners Creek HOA, said heavy traffic on Highway 24 is the primary reason most people oppose the rezoning. He said the area is already a dangerous thoroughfare with frequent collisions, and he worries adding more traffic, especially heavy boat traffic, could lead to more accidents.
“I’m not against either of the two proposed businesses, I’m opposed to the site,” he said. “…Traffic in that spot is terrible and getting worse all the time.”
Spooners Creek North HOA president Ed Slavin agreed, pointing out the numerous traffic collisions that have happened in the area in recent years. According to Mr. Slavin, there have been a few fatalities and several other severe accidents on the stretch of Highway 24 between Highway 70 and Harbor Drive, the intersection behind Walmart.
“It’s a bad situation that’s not going to improve,” he said.
Other reasons homeowners gave for their opposition include environmental concerns, like increased flooding and stormwater runoff potential, as well as noise and light pollution. Many also wish to keep the parcel zoned for residential development because they fear encroaching commercialization could change the traditionally residential nature of the community and possibly reduce property values.
Mr. Starling, however, claims his business would be less environmentally impactful than a residential development, and he thinks it and the senior living community are a good fit for the area. Mr. Starling himself lives in the Spooners Creek neighborhood.
“The property is going to get developed one way or another,” he said.
Mr. Starling told the News-Times while he understands differing opinions on the matter, he’s frustrated by “blatant misinformation” being spread by the groups who oppose his request.
“I respect different opinions, but I just wish people were basing those opinions on the facts,” he said.
In response to traffic concerns, Mr. Starling said he previously notified the N.C. Department of Transportation of his plans and incorporated the department’s recommendations in his proposal to the town. He also reached out to engineering firms about possibly conducting a traffic study in the area, but said he isn’t sure what would come out of such a study.
Ultimately, the HOA coalition hopes the city council votes to keep the property zoned for residential development, but Mr. Starling said he’s hopeful the council will consider the “facts” and decide in his favor.
“We look forward to presenting our plans to the city council on the 13th,” he said. “…We are proud and excited that the planning board recommended the project and we’re ready to move forward.”
Contact Elise Clouser at firstname.lastname@example.org; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.