INDIAN BEACH — Town officials are considering a land use ordinance amendment to allow mixed residential development in the town’s general business district.
Two local property developers have requested the amendment to facilitate a project to build townhouses and condominiums on soundside and oceanfront property east of the Ocean Club on Salter Path Road.
The board of commissioners, with Mayor Stewart Pickett absent, met Wednesday for its regular meeting in the town hall boardroom on Salter Path Road. During the meeting, the board received a request for a land use ordinance amendment. Developers Fred Bunn and Sammy Ballou requested the town amend the ordinance to allow mixed residential unit development on property zoned B-1 (general business district).
After consideration and receiving public comment, the board unanimously tabled the request to send the draft amendment back to the town planning board, at a meeting date to be determined, for potential changes.
Mr. Ballou said after the meeting he and Mr. Bunn are under contract to purchase the lots to the immediate east of the Ocean Club, which total about 16.35 acres, but haven’t closed on the property. Their intent is to build a mixed residential unit development with townhouses and condominiums.
“I think they (the board) are taking the stance of protecting the community and listening to public comments,” Mr. Ballou said. “We understand the public response.”
During the meeting, several remote participants joined the meeting online and voiced concerns about the requested amendment. The amendment would add single-family detached townhomes and duplexes as part of a group housing project to the allowed uses in B-1. It would also add a group housing project section to the ordinance, which would include the following provisions:
· A 50-foot setback from the primary road.
· Thirty-foot setbacks from secondary roads.
· Ten-foot side setbacks for residential units up to five stories.
· Requiring a 35-foot-deep buffer strip adjacent to all highways.
· Requiring 40% of existing trees with trunk diameters 4 inches or larger 24 feet above the ground to be preserved; should existing trees need to be removed, new trees must be planted to maintain a minimum of 40% of the original tree count.
· Allow preserved trees to be removed with board of commissioner approval.
Resident Chris Beretsel said she was concerned about the potential effects on neighboring property values should five-story buildings be permitted in B-1.
“Looking around Indian Beach, most of our condo buildings are three stories,” Ms. Beretsel said. “I wouldn’t want a building like that so close to my property line. You’re opening it up for anyone to build a five-story building 10 feet from the property line.”
Ms. Beretsel was also concerned about the potential for severe tree removal of old growth trees. The oceanfront and soundside lots are largely undeveloped and were formerly used as campgrounds.
“You could, in essence, remove 100 percent of the (existing) live oaks (on a given lot) and replace only 40% of the trees,” she said.
Ocean Club Soundside Homeowners’ Association president Bruce Wicks was also concerned about how close large buildings could be constructed to a property line under the proposed amendment, as well as the potential for stormwater flooding with a mixed residential development.
“It boggles my mind the town is considering these changes,” Mr. Wicks said. “You’re considering changing the ordinance without a (submitted development) plan. This is a project that’s way ahead of itself.”
The Cullipher Group principal engineer Ron Cullipher was at the meeting with Mr. Bunn and Mr. Ballou. As an example project similar to the one proposed, he cited Mr. Bunn’s ongoing development in the Atlantic Beach Circle, a multi-use district consisting of the property immediately south of the Fort Macon Road/Atlantic Beach Causeway intersection and the surrounding neighborhoods.
“We’re trying to get the rules (in Indian Beach) to meet what we think will be a nice community,” Mr. Cullipher said. “We haven’t done a design document (for the project) yet because without the amendment, there’s no point. We recognize we need to go through the planning board and come back with a thorough (development) plan.”
In other news at the board meeting Wednesday, Town Manager Tim White informed the board construction is complete on a new metal building for the town’s public works department. The new building is next to town hall. Mr. White said they’ve applied for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which he expects to come by the end of September.
Mr. White also informed the board he’s received word the N.C. Department of Transportation has suspended new grants for infrastructure projects due to existing projects going over budget, so the town’s application to the department is indefinitely on hold. Also:
· Fire Chief Joshua Haraway informed the board his department has received a new, custom-built ambulance to replace a 2013 select custom wheel coach ambulance. The board unanimously declared the 2013 ambulance surplus.
· The board unanimously approved a budget amendment to record reimbursement from FEMA for the new ambulance.
· The board unanimously approved a resolution opposing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal to designate Bogue Banks as critical habitat for the rufa red knot, a small shorebird.
· The board unanimously approved minutes for the regular board meeting Aug. 11.