New Hanover County leaders have greenlighted a rezoning that allows plans for a convenience store and other potential businesses to move forward in the Seabreeze area.
The rezoning faced pushback from neighbors who raised concerns about increasing traffic and congestion along Carolina Beach Road’s southern stretch. New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners approved rezoning the roughly seven-acre site from a low-density residential district to a regional business district in a 4-1 vote on Monday.
The rezoning covers approximately 7.3 acres in the 7600 block of Carolina Beach Road, stretching between S. Seabreeze Road to N. Seabreeze Road. Conceptual plans show a gas station and convenience store along with space for two restaurants and a retail building, which would make up a maximum of 28,300 square feet of space.
County staff and the project’s representatives said these are potential and anticipated uses for the site, but they could shift. Development on the site would be limited to uses allowed in the regional business district and conditions placed on the rezoning, said Cindee Wolf with Design Solutions. Wolf has helped represent the project throughout the rezoning process.
“The front section, certainly the convenience store as an anchor makes the most sense. We certainly believe that’s what will be a potentially positive use there,” Wolf said. “The other three quadrants … are open to the market, confined to the uses we’ve agreed to and exempted.”
Potential uses could include restaurants, storefronts, medical offices or drive-thru restaurants, Wolf said. Uses specifically excluded on the site include electronic gaming, outdoor recreation, a commercial parking lot, a car wash, vehicle rentals, a minor vehicle service station, artisan manufacturing, a commercial recycling facility, an animal shelter, a kennel, a hotel, an event center, indoor recreation, funeral services, and a micro-brewery or micro-distillery.
Other conditions in the rezoning limited building height to 35 feet, required the construction of sidewalks and required the project’s connection to public water and sewer services.
The project is being developed by SOCOL, LLC, the limited liability company that owns the nine parcels that make up the rezoning area. The corporation was established in 2020 for real estate investment, according to the North Carolina Secretary of State, and the company’s registered agent is Richard Yang.
Neighbors and New Hanover County residents raised concerns about the project at an initial community meeting and as it went before the New Hanover County Planning Board and Board of Commissioners.
Of the written public comments submitted ahead of Monday’s meeting, four comments supported the project, one was neutral and 48 opposed it. Traffic and ongoing congestion topped the list of concerns along with the impacts development could have on the surrounding environment and the area’s existing residents.
Brian Gordon, who said he lives within 500 feet of the site, worried about the increasing traffic and noise along Carolina Beach Road. He also started a petition to show the area’s opposition to the rezoning.
“The local community in Seabreeze does not feel like our voices have been heard thus far,” Gordon told the board of commissioners on Monday.
Development partner Cameron Zurbruegg said the proposed development would make some services more accessible for locals, which could help reduce traffic on some sections of the corridor.
Zurbruegg also encouraged residents to lobby the N.C. Department of Transportation to make traffic improvements along Carolina Beach Road as this project moves through the permitting and review process.
The project is expected to generate 389 vehicle trips during peak morning hours and 284 trips during peak afternoon hours.
To accommodate the increased traffic, developers will be required to add a westbound turn lane at the intersection of Carolina Beach Road and S. Seabreeze Road along with an eastbound turn lane into the development on S. Seabreeze Road.