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Rezoning Clears Way For 128 Workforce Housing Units In Castle Hayne

By Emma Dill, posted Mar 20, 2024
The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a rezoning for a 128-unit workforce housing complex in Castle Hayne earlier this week. (Image courtesy of Design Solutions)
New Hanover County leaders approved a zoning change this week for a project that promises to bring 128 units of workforce housing to Castle Hayne.

New Beginning Christian Church, led by Pastor Robert Campbell, is working to build workforce housing on nearly 11 acres located just east of its church building in the 3100 block of Blue Clay Road. Another 68 affordable senior apartments are already under construction on church-owned land nearby.  

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 on Monday to rezone the site for moderate-density multifamily development. LeAnn Pierce, the board’s vice chair, voted against the rezoning, citing concerns about the scale of the project.

In February, the New Hanover County Planning Board unanimously voted to recommend the denial of the rezoning. Board members pointed to concerns about the mass and scale of the project and whether it would fit in with the surrounding subdivisions, which are dominated by single-family homes.

The proposed project would include 128 units spread across 14 buildings on land bordered to the south by subdivision Rachel’s Place and to the north by another single-family neighborhood. The ten buildings closest to the neighboring subdivisions will be two stories in height while four others will have three stories, said Cindee Wolf with Design Solutions. Wolf has represented the project as it’s moved through the rezoning process.

The project is expected to generate 64 car trips during peak morning hours and 59 trips during peak afternoon hours. It's also expected to add around 27 new students to local schools.

The proposed complex has evolved during that process, as the unit count dropped from a maximum of 180 units to the final 128, Wolf told the board of commissioners on Monday. 

“This has been a dynamic process and the plan has been whittled down from the very first to address consistency and reasonability,” Wolf said.

Throughout the project’s planning, neighboring residents have voiced concerns about how the project would fit into the community and worried it could exacerbate existing traffic, school and stormwater drainage issues. Several residents turned out on Monday to push back against the plans.

Resident Ronald Sparks said although he’s supportive of more affordable housing, the size and scale don't fit the area.

“This is a beehive of people that’s going to be dropped in my neighborhood,” Sparks told the board. “It’s too many people for this location.”

Rachel’s Place resident Scott Gallagher said the proposed complex would “dominate” his neighborhood of single-family homes.

“It is too large a project for too small an area,” he said.

Others spoke in support of the rezoning and underscored the value of affordable housing in the community. That included Tom Gale, a local realtor and vice chair of the joint Wilmington and New Hanover County Workforce Housing Advisory Committee.

“As we’re all aware, land that can be developed in our county is quickly diminishing, which means that we have to be resourceful with the parcels that we still have available,” he said. “Fifty-three percent of the county’s residents are housing-cost burdened and the area rents have gone up 51% in the last five years. Increasing housing supply is a critical way to help address these issues.”

Campbell, the pastor at New Beginning, told the board that he feels he received a mandate to create affordable housing in the area when he was called to the church.

“I’m not trying to build affordable housing because I need it, I do not,” he said. “I’m trying to build affordable housing because our community needs it.”

All of the complex’s units will operate as workforce housing for at least 15 years, according to a condition included in the rezoning. The units will provide housing for those earning between $31,000 and $74,000 annually. The church is looking at its options to secure financing for the project, which could take years, Campbell said.

"We can't apply for anything without the zoning, so we have to get that first," he said. "It's a long process. Even if it's approved today, if we did it within three years, if we got the funding, that would be a record."

Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said the project is an example of what New Hanover County needs, especially in less northern areas. 

“The Castle Hayne area is the least developed part of our county, it’s the part where we’re trying to encourage more homes to be built in that area,” Barfield said. “So, for me, this is the perfect project for this particular part of town as it is transitioning, it’s changing and it’s going to continue to change.”
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