Hampstead landowners are asking to alter a residential area on 11.5 acres of land to accommodate other nearby businesses along US 17 – though it won’t be in future land use plans Pender County lands.
An application has been filed to rezone two parcels of land on the east side of the highway, near its intersection at Sloop Point Road, from Residential Performance (RP) to General Business (GB). Commercial broker Michael Nadeau submitted the request on behalf of owners Thomas and Rebecca Benfield, who currently live in Las Vegas.
The Benfields have owned the family property for several decades. According to county records, the property is worth $510,300. Currently, there are no construction plans for the land.
“They’ve put the property up for sale, but it’s kind of a small residential zoned island right in the middle of a big commercial node of commercial zoning and commercial uses,” Nadeau said.
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Some of these places include Hilltop Grocery, Pender Pines Garden Center, Sloop Point Boat Storage, and the Pender Senior Center. He added that in the immediate area there are more than 30 plots currently zoned for non-residential use, with a solar farm nearby.
“It makes sense to rezone it,” he said. “Nobody wants to build a residential thing there, with a shipyard on one side (and other businesses on the side),” he said.
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But county planning staff had a different opinion, saying the GB zoning district’s request was inconsistent with the overall Pender 2.0 land use plan. Staff members also said the uses permitted in the requested zoning are inconsistent with the surrounding area.
Based on land plan compliance, the property is located in an area defined for low-density residential space for future use, which may include single-family neighborhoods with a low-density residential development pattern. Officials said suitable uses include single-family dwellings and neighborhood-scale institutional facilities.
The land use plan also indicates that commercial and industrial uses are inappropriate in these areas, as well as large institutions and other significant traffic generators. Duplexes and townhouses may be suitable if they are part of a planned community based on boundary regulations with adjacent properties or permitted uses.
Officials also noted a few policies conflict with the land use plan involving population growth and developments that they believe will make traffic congestion less of a problem.
If final approval is made to rezone the area into GB, some of the possible commercial uses include retail, real estate and rental, professional scientific and technical services, educational services, manufacturing, arts, entertainment and recreation.
For residential uses, under GB, the upper floor has also been listed. Under the county’s Unified Development Ordinance, an upper story attached residential structure consists of a mixed-use floor plan typically with commercial/retail uses on the ground floor of the structure and residential accommodation above it.
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Despite the request for denial, the Pender County Planning Board recommended approval at a March 1 meeting. The request will be forwarded to the Council of Commissioners at a later date.
“The planning board cited general business zoning and the desire for more commerce in the Hampstead area in its motion to recommend approval,” said Travis Henley, county director of planning and community development.
Nadeau said this could become an unexpected area of growth for Hampstead.
“And really, you need more commercial properties in North Hampstead as the area develops,” Nadeau said.
Journalist Chase Jordan can be reached at [email protected]