WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The North Carolina Court of Appeals on Tuesday overturned the denial of a special-use permit for a mixed-use development off Lendire Road in Ogden.
According to the court’s opinion, New Hanover County commissioners’ rejection of the permit because it posed a danger to public health and safety was “unsupported by competent, material, and substantial evidence.” The case was remanded back to county commissioners with instructions to approve the permit.
Coswald, LLC owns a 30-acre parcel of land near the intersection of Market Street and Lendire Road and in July 2019, applied for a special-use permit to develop a little over half of the land for hundreds of apartments and approximately 7,500 square feet of commercial space.
The application was approved by New Hanover County’s planning board but was met with resistance by folks living in the area during a public meeting of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners in Oct. 2019.
Opponents of the project were worried that it would exacerbate traffic and flooding issues that they said they were already seeing on a regular basis.
According to the Appeals Court’s opinion, the opponents only offered their own personal beliefs and opinions about the possible traffic and flooding impacts and no experts testified against the project.
On the other hand, according to the opinion, the petitioners provided a traffic impact analysis that indicated “the development would slightly increase the time it takes for vehicles to get through certain intersections nearby, but would not reduce the overall level of service in those intersections from the project level of operation for 2021.”
The petitioners also had testimony from an engineer who said that “stormwater runoff would be reduced (for all storms less than a 100-year storm) compared to the current stormwater runoff as an undeveloped piece of land.”
County commissioners would table a decision for approximately eight months, before ultimately voting against the project during a June 1, 2020, meeting.
Commissioners ruled that the project would “materially endanger the public health and safety” and, according to the court opinion, relied on a single finding of fact for that conclusion: “Drainage improvements have not been completed and traffic improvements planned for the area have not been completed.”
The board did add that the proposed project met the three other requirements needed for a special-use permit.
A superior court judge would later uphold the county’s decision.
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