Town council members in Leland voted Thursday to direct the town clerk to investigate a petition for voluntary annexation of about 8.34 acres in neighboring New Hanover County.
The petition was submitted by a company called DBDL, LLC, one of the owners of property where developer KFJ LLC, proposes to build a condominium project with 550 units in three high-rise towers along with 300 apartments, retail, commercial and hospitality space and a luxury hotel.
Town officials, in what they described as acting in the interest of transparency, had removed the planned action from the consent agenda, under which multiple items are typically approved or denied in a single up-or-down vote and with minimal discussion.
“This resolution is the second step in a voluntary annexation process, the first step being the receipt of the petition itself,” said Leland Planning Director Ben Andrea. “Typically, these resolutions are part of the consent agenda and approved along with other items, as the council just did. In an effort to be transparent and to inform the public about the annexation process, in general — not just pertaining to this annexation in particular — this item was removed and presenting to you some additional information tonight.”
The board’s action Thursday was a step required by the state in determining whether the annexation request was legal to consider, not a vote on whether to annex the parcel. If the town clerk’s investigation finds the petition meets legal requirements such as the petitioner’s ownership, town officials would then schedule a public hearing and vote on the annexation request. Public notice of the hearing is required.
The request drew numerous public statements of opposition during the portion of the meeting provided for public comments. Those who spoke described the proposed project as environmentally unsound and in conflict with the town’s land use policies. One said it was an example of “greed and reckless development.” Another said it would change the character of the town. Multiple speakers said it would exacerbate flooding issues and cited examples where developers had in the past walked away from flooding problems they created. Others said transportation would be adversely affected.
Roger Shew, a geologist with the University of North Carolina Wilmington who owns land in Brunswick County, said the project would have “catastrophic” results.
“This will definitely be a stormwater management issue, and the loss of the marsh along the shoreline will lead to the loss of primary nursery grounds. Channel deepening of the Cape Fear will lead to higher waters and higher-salinity waters, as well. In fact, more saline waters tend to break down organic soils that will lead to more compaction and subsidence,” Shew said. “And what about aesthetics? a 300-foot structure will be like a wall on the river and dwarf any other structure, including the battleship.”