Powell

A Great Opportunity for Morehead City!

What could be a greater opportunity than to locate a premier, award-winning Boat Showroom and Boat Care Center on one of the major entrances into our great City, right at a sign touting us as a Fisherman’s Paradise, and next to one of the great marinas of our area?

What could be a greater opportunity than to locate a first-class Senior Independent Living Community, serving a population that is significant and growing in our region, serving and welcoming these valued members of our community, and supporting the goals of our County Economic Development Office?

What could be a greater opportunity than to enhance the financial well-being of our City by voluntarily annexing valuable property, increasing the tax base of our City by millions of dollars, increasing revenue, and adding new jobs? What a great opportunity to offset future tax increases!

What could be a greater opportunity to care for the environment than to develop this property with a no-cost-to-the City $500,000 lift station (installed and donated to the City by the developers) instead of 30+ septic systems and drain fields and leaving significantly more undisturbed land and buffers?

Some argue, “A residential community only!” What a missed opportunity if we disregard the needs of our senior adult citizens. No one is offering a better option. Did you know that calculations based on NCDOT criteria reveal that a residential community would have significantly more daily entrances onto Hwy 24 than the two proposed enterprises? Imagine the boat trailers, RVs, landscaping trailers, as well as Fed Ex, UPS, and other delivery services. Yes, Hwy 24 can be dangerous but it doesn’t sound like a residential community is any less so.

What could be a greater opportunity to utilize the new Conditional Use Permitting Process? This new development is submitting to greater scrutiny and control – no alternative uses or changes without further City review and approval. The Planning Board has approved this request and it is now before the City Council. The Land Use Plan (2005) itself states: (p. 21) “It should be noted, however, that the Land Use Plan is one of a variety of guides in making a public policy decision. The Plan should be viewed as a tool to aid in decision making and not as the final decision.” Policy 4 (p. 99): “Medium-density residential and mixed-use development will be encouraged in those areas with public water and sewer, with vehicular access to major streets, and in transitional locations between intensive non-residential uses and existing low-density residential areas.” Since this property is on Hwy 24, immediately behind Walmart, and has no access to a residential community, this opportunity seems to fit this clearly.

Starling Marine is a well-respected member of our business community, our churches, and our neighborhoods. They are an essential partner in our commitment to being a Fisherman’s Paradise. And Ridge Care is the company that provided Carteret Landing – they do things right! What could be a greater opportunity to enhance our City and community than to support these two tremendous assets to our region?

Not everyone likes change; some resist it almost as a rule. What could be a greater opportunity than for our City Council to achieve reputable, economic-enhancing, community-serving, environmentally safe change by approving this zoning petition?

Johnson

Dear area residents & community leaders,

It is an honor to support the applicants regarding their plans for an exciting new opportunity for Morehead City. As with any changes and new development, it is important to share as much information as possible and to address any concerns to ensure that any development is done responsibly, while protecting the environment, ensuring public safety, considering impacts on the surrounding neighbors, and most importantly, protecting our vital waterways. There is no doubt that change creates concern and this is important for us to address. The ultimate goal is to add to the appeal of our wonderful City vs. create one ounce of negative impact.

First, I’d like to discuss the unique features of this parcel in relation to its useable space vs. wetlands and the wonderful natural buffer that has created this design and canvas to work within. The renderings provided of the 23-acre tract show what is the useable “upland” area vs. what is basically untouchable due to the wetland delineation survey. Under this conditional request, not one tree can be touched within the wetland designated area. The survey shows a “V” shaped area bordering Hwy 24 and funneling into the 23-acre tract as the only allowable space. The benefit of this shape and the wetlands is that there is no opportunity for contiguous traffic from these proposed projects and any adjoining residential property or neighborhood. There is a huge natural buffer between the buildable area of this parcel and any residential parcel. The useable space is completely isolated to Hwy 24. With their research and expenditure on determining useable space on this tract, it has been determined the least environmental impact to the land would not be R-20 residential. A residential developer faced with these known obstacles would choose to push the development as far away from the highway as possible, while also trying to create as much density as possible. This means maximum clearing up to the wetlands while placing homes, septic systems, and irrigation systems across their lawns. Fertilizer and pollutant runoff would potentially impact these sensitive lands and surrounding waterways as it is not monitored or regulated. In contrast, the conditional zoning use would be positioned as close to Hwy 24 as allowable, in turn allowing a larger buffer of trees and controlled runoff as regulated from the state guidelines. Also, this proposed project will develop and use public water and sewer services as opposed to septic systems and wells. This development would be annexed into the Town of Morehead City’s tax base, however, surrounding properties would not be impacted by any annexation agreements. Leaving a larger buffer protects the habitat, the environment, and the vital waterways.

We understand that any time a new business or residential community is created, traffic and safety are of the utmost concern. To ensure that traffic patterns and vehicles moving on and off the highway are done in the safest manner possible, the proposed project has implemented recommendations from the NCDOT to include a slow down lane for both the Starling Marine building, as well as Ridge Care’s Multi-Family Dwelling. Although it adds to the cost to the intended projects, it ensures the safety of the community which is so important to responsible development.

In being good neighbors, it is important not to do be disruptive to anyone’s peace and enjoyment or disturb their personal space. Starling marine has included more information about their business process, their hours of operation, and products they sell and service. Unlike the 24-hour Walmart and Murphy gas station less than 300’ from the subject property, Starling Marine operates under normal business hours and many of their clients are by appointment only. This is important to distinguish from an R20 residential neighborhood that will have no traffic restrictions.

The developers are also aware that the community loves our night skies, and adding tall lighting and removing the tree buffer could create a negative impact. The illustrations for the proposed project show a massive vegetative buffer surrounding the usable space on this tract. This natural buffer will significantly reduce any light emissions along with the zoning conditions which prohibit any building heights that exceed 50’. Being fully aware that this property is one of the very first impressions on Hwy 24 once passing the “Morehead City, Fisherman’s Paradise” sign, we feel that showcasing a “high end” Multi-Family Facility that is restricted to residents ages 55+, would be a huge asset to Morehead City, as these types of properties are under-represented in our wonderful community. With a history of successful properties and projects through the eastern part of the State, we feel confident this will be a project Morehead City will be proud to showcase. Starling Marine has been a staple in Morehead City since expanding to the area in 2013. They represent excellent watercraft products and are wonderful assets to the community in both character and customer service. They live in Spooner’s Creek and are neighbors of their own proposed development. They understand that responsible development and maintaining the integrity of their community are the most important factors in their proposal.

In conclusion, for anyone that has submitted a letter to the Town and voiced their concerns, called one of the members of the application team, visited the community website, attended one of the 3 overall community meetings at Starling Marine, or sent out mass emails to residents in your home owner associations persuing additional letters of opposition, let me assure you… you’re concerns have all been heard and addressed.

Bryan Starling submitted an application for rezoning near the end of 2020. Once the public was notified, several concerns were raised. As a team, the decision was made to evaluate the concerns and look deeply at each one and see what could be done to ensure those concerned citizens that the issues were heard and have been addressed. Therefore the decision was made to withdraw the application and reapply when available under a conditional zoning request. That became an available option in January 2021.

One of the wonderful advantages of conditional zoning is the certainty that accompanies the request. As a community, we know the use, we know the drawings, we know the protections that have been in place and we have some guarantees. It ensures responsible development.

  • To understand the impacts on the environment, the developers were required to have a survey completed.
  • To understand the area of Coastal and 404 Wetlands, they had to hire a soil scientist to evaluate and delineate between protected land and buildable land.
  • To ensure the least impact of runoff and protection of wetlands, the applicants wanted to ensure they could develop outside of the flood zone and stay completely away from the wetlands.
  • To ensure they could safely enter and exit Starling Marine and the Ridge Care center, the information was provided to the NCDOT for analysis which in turn created the recommendation for one access per parcel in addition to a slow down lane.
  • To alleviate the concerns over noise and light pollution, the applicants made sure they could design a building that will stay under the natural tree lines.
  • Furthermore, the applicants have self-imposed a condition to never disturb an ounce of wetlands which again creates this huge natural surrounding buffer.

In addressing flood zone concerns, the flooding that has occurred in those areas is considered tidal flooding which is something the applicant is unable to mitigate. However, they can and have agreed to develop within a non-flood zone area and mitigate water runoff to any surrounding wetlands. The applicants will abide by all Federal, State, and local requirements for permits as part of their next steps forward.

I think this is a great opportunity for the Town of Morehead City to take full advantage of conditional zoning which will protect these vital wetlands and waterways, create huge natural buffers for the residents, and will address traffic safety concerns as traffic increases and as the Town grows. It will say that The Town of Morehead City is business-friendly as long as the development is done responsibly. Finally, it tells our citizens that we are serious about housing opportunities for our seniors as their lifestyles change through the coming years.