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Planning Commission Critiques Proposed Town Center
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-02-16

New Hanover planners issue conditional denial

 

            Despite expressing multiple concerns over the latest proposal to develop a 186-acre parcel in New Hanover, the township's planning commission stopped short of issuing formal disapproval.

            Last week, following nearly five hours of deliberation, the members unanimously approved a motion recommending "denial" for a plan to construct a town center near the intersection of Swamp Pike and Route 663 only if representatives from the Colmar developer fail to request an extension prior to the Feb. 28 supervisors meeting.

            Rusty Oister, chair of the commission, described it as a conditional denial.

            On Wednesday, Feb. 9, a consultant representing R. P. Wynstone, L.P. – as well its engineer and attorney – appeared at the meeting to discuss the details of review letters from three of the township's professional consultants.

            Debate over engineering issues, accumulated by Bob Flinchbaugh, lasted nearly three hours. The members also heard concerns related to traffic and planning.

            Oister recommended that the developer – represented by Ben Goldthorp, a principal at the Pennington Property Group – complete a water impact study and update its traffic impact study. He described the issues of traffic and parking as huge.

            Manager Jamie Gwynn identified between five and 10 issues in which Goldthorp stated that the developer was not prepared to comply due to issues over the language of the township's ordinances.

            According to Zachary A. Sivertsen, the lawyer representing the developer, his client has already submitted a letter requesting an extension until July 1 to update the project, which includes 638 residential units and 315,000 square feet of non-residential floor area. Sivertsen said his client has "every intent" to present a revised plan.

            Prior to the vote, Gwynn advised the commission not to outright deny the proposal. The manager said he would advise the supervisors to accept the extension.

            According to the manager, R. P. Wynstone submitted a new version of a proposal to develop the former site of the New Hanover Airport on Dec. 1. Gwynn said it was done to avoid a zoning change that was approved a few days later.  "You rushed to submit the plan," the manager said following the discussion. "It's incomplete. If you want to move forward, we can help you improve it."

            In November, the supervisors voted to deny approval for the preliminary plan. Gwynn described it as the eighth iteration of a previous submission process.

            According to Goldthorp, the new plan includes 187 single-family homes and 487 townhouses, a supermarket, two restaurants, office space, and 13 mixed-used structures, some of which will include 90 hotel rooms. He said a great majority of the residential units will not include basements.

            Oister suggested reducing that number to zero.  "I suggest you take a hard look at no basements," said Oister, expressing concern over potential flooding.  "This area is not conducive to them."

            In terms of the mixed-use three-story buildings, Goldthorp explained that eight of them will feature commercial use on the bottom floor and living spaces on the top two floors.  He said the five remaining buildings will feature business on the first floor and hotel rooms above.

            Member William Moyer said he was "trying to wrap his head around the concept" of implementing a hotel in the community.

            Goldthorp said they are popular in Myrtle Beach and Philadelphia.

 


 

 

 

 

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