'Slippery Slope': Carolina Beach Leaders Deny Request To Rezone Former Hotel Site

By Emma Dill, posted Apr 10, 2024
The Carolina Beach Town Council voted down a rezoning for the site of a previously proposed hotel, citing concerns about the town's growing central business district. (Image courtesy of Carolina Beach)
In a split vote Tuesday, the Carolina Beach Town Council voted down a request to bring another property into the town’s central business district, which some council members said could create a “slippery slope” of expansion for the business district.

STLNC LLC, the limited liability company that owns the roughly 0.17-acre lot at 204 Harper Ave., submitted a request earlier this year to change the parcel’s zoning from mixed-use to central business district (CBD). That zoning change would bring the parcel into compliance with three adjacent lots – also owned by STLNC LLC – that are already part of the town’s central business district.

“It’s not a situation where we’re coming before you today requesting that we want to change the zoning from something entirely different than what it is now,” Ned Barnes, an attorney representing STLNC LLC, told the Carolina Beach Town Council on Tuesday. “We’re asking just to be consistent with what’s currently the zoning in this specific area.” 

Changing the zoning would make the parcel subject to lower setback and parking requirements and would broaden what could be built on the site.

Property records show STLNC LLC, a limited liability company registered to Sally Sturdevant, purchased 204 Harper Ave. and the three adjacent parcels at 205, 207 and 209 Lake Park Boulevard in February for $1.45 million.

The four parcels were purchased from Cove House LLC, an entity that acquired the land in late 2022 for just over $1.7 million with plans to build a 42-room boutique hotel on the site. But the hotel never came to fruition. 

Robert Rosenberg and Kaylie O’Connor, the creators of The Hive Boutique Hotel in downtown Wilmington, were behind the hotel plans. Rosenberg died in March 2023.

For decades before the latest hotel plans, the site had housed the Welcome Inn boarding house. Barnes said the new owner of the Carolina Beach site hasn’t solidified plans for the land’s future.

“There’s no specific plans for the property right now,” he said. “But it was the hope that this all be consistently zoned CBD.”

During a discussion of the request, several council members voiced concern about growing the town’s central business district into surrounding residential areas. 

“I do have a fear of expanding CBD westward. The question is how far do we go?” Council member Jay Healy said. “There’s got to be a stopping point.”

Council member Mike Hoffer agreed.

“There is a slippery slope here of this ever-marching westward CBD,” he said.

However, Healy noted the parcels have shared an owner for decades but came under separate zoning districts when the town applied a new zoning ordinance in 2000. 

Carolina Beach Mayor Lynn Barbee said as land becomes increasingly scarce in Carolina Beach, the council will be forced to make tough decisions about land use and rezoning.

“The days of building on 50-by-125 (foot), well-surveyed laid-out lots, those days are pretty much finished,” Barbee said. “It’s going to be difficult decision after difficult decision.”

Hoffer said he encouraged the current owners to make their project work within the existing zoning district. 

“I just think, in general, we should cool it with the zoning changes,” he said. “People have made their life decisions on the zoning of their property and the property around them.”

The council ultimately voted 2-3 to deny the rezoning. Barbee and Healy voted to approve the zoning change, while Hoffer, Mayor Pro Tem Deb LeCompte and council member Joe Benson voted against it.
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