At the first of their two May meetings, the New Hanover County Commissioners took a second step toward the development of Blue Clay Business Park by awarding the contract for required infrastructure there.
County facilities project manager Kevin Caison asked the board to approve a contract with Wells Brothers Construction to install roadways as well as a sanitary sewer system, a stormwater system and a domestic water distribution system to the 120-acre park. Completion of the project by early 2024 is a condition of purchase of sites by two expanding manufacturers. Those purchases were approved recently by the commissioners.
The county received three project bids, ranging from more than $7.5 million from Civil Works Contracting to nearly $7.2 million from East Coast Contracting to about $7.1 million from Wells Brothers.
Caison explained that the roadways will be designed and built to N.C. Department of Transportation specifications so that the state department will take over their maintenance once they are complete. Cape Fear Public Utility Authority will own the water and sewer infrastructure once it’s finished. But businesses in the park will be responsible for tapping into the systems and maintaining them on their own property.
Commissioners questioned why the three bids received for the project were significantly higher than the $3.6 million originally budgeted. Caison explained that the budget was developed before pandemic-related shortages of materials and labor caused the costs of both to surge.
The facilities project manager added that his department has seen similar cost jumps in other county construction projects since the pandemic, with bids coming in at double the originally budgeted estimates.
Commissioners gave unanimous approval to the contract with Wells Brothers Construction.
The board also approved a plan to finance $25 million in county projects, including the nearly $11.9 million purchase of the former Bank of America building on North Third Street downtown for the Cape Fear Community College nursing program. Other major items to be financed are a $4.7 million new facility for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Detective and Vice divisions, and 77 new vehicles with road-ready equipment and a bomb truck. The money will also complete Hanover Pines Nature Park, expand Ogden Park’s maintenance facility, and purchase a compactor truck for the county’s environmental management department.
The measure required holding a public hearing, but after Chairman Bill Rivenbark opened the hearing, no one stepped forward to speak. The board then voted unanimously to approve the financing package.
In other business, the commissioners considered several Planning and Land Use rezoning requests at the meeting, hearing from residents and discussing proposals among themselves. The first rezoning of 42.1 acres off Carolina Beach Road near Manassas Drive for higher-density housing was denied in a 4-1 vote.
The second hearing was unanimously approved, allowing for a residential piece of property off Carolina Beach Road to be rezoned as “regional business.”
The final public hearing to rezone 4.64 acres at 6634 Carolina Beach Road to moderate-density residential housing for a 64-unit multi-family development was denied by a 3-2 vote.
Finally, a quasi-judicial hearing for a special use permit was unanimously approved, allowing for an increase to the allowed density of up to 10.2 dwelling units per acre for four parcels on Piner Road.