Commercial complex crosses first step of approval for Seabreeze area, along with two single-family homes
NEW HANOVER — Development of the historic Seabreeze area of Carolina Beach continues apace after the planning board recommended approval of two rezoning requests Thursday.
The board unanimously signed off on a 7.28 acre rezoning to facilitate a commercial business park and voted 5-1 in favor of a 0.44 rezoning for a residential development. Applicant Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions represented both requests.
The commercial business park totals nine parcels on 7600 Carolina Beach Road between S. Seabreeze and N. Seabreeze roads. The property is owned by Wolf’s client SOCOL LLC, a Wilmington-based real estate firm whose registered agent is Richard Yang. Yang’s business partner Cameron Zuerbregg presented the request to the board.
The request would shift the area from R-15 residential — used for low residential development — to commercial services district, enabling a maximum of 28,300 square feet of commercial space to include general retail, restaurant, and a gas station. The developer agreed on several conditions to accommodate traffic concerns; it will not include a hotel, a brewery, an event center or buildings over two stories. No tenants have been selected for the proposal.
Carolina Beach residents have repeatedly voiced opposition to recent developments in the Seabreeze area; nine sent public comments to the board WHEN? Increased traffic represented the most common concern.
“The proposed development is too intense and will make the intersection of Seabreeze and Carolina Beach Roads even more dangerous than it already is,” Grouper Court resident Kristen Kaplan wrote, according to the agenda packet. “It will also produce additional noise, trash, bright lights, and a disruption to the neighborhood feel that currently exists along CB Road from Myrtle Grove Road to Snow’s Cut Bridge.”
According to North Carolina Department of Transportation data, there were 33 crashes at the intersection of Seabreeze and Carolina Beach roads from 2018 to 2022. The NCDOT’s 2021 survey of the portion of Carolina Beach Road near Seabreeze has an annual daily traffic volume of 32,500 trips.
The NCDOT reviewed and approved the request after a traffic impact analysis. At full build-out, the project will generate a potential 7,323 trips, with 389 trips in the AM peak hour and 284 trips in the peak PM hour. Port City Daily reached out to NCDOT regarding Carolina Beach Road’s capacity but did not receive an answer by press.
Resident Michael Wixted, who lives across the street from Seabreeze on Ocracoke Drive, argued the nine parcels should maintain their residential zoning to facilitate the need for additional housing in New Hanover County.
Resident Jacob Teets, who lives in the nearby Sea Robin neighborhood with his family, also argued he wasn’t opposed to development in the area but disfavored the proposed uses.
“We are actually pro-development but with the idea that those services be community-oriented and something we would use and not a fast food style restaurant,” he wrote to the board before the meeting. “A gas station would not help and just add to the chaos at an already difficult and dangerous intersection with fairly high traffic volume.”
Wolf countered residents’ concerns by arguing the development would provide convenience, variety and free enterprise. She noted the project had been planned for years to address various issues including traffic and stormwater. For instance, a central road in the proposed development connecting north and south Seabreeze roads is designed to promote circulation within the area and mitigate excess traffic on public roads.
Property owner Richard Yang began purchasing the parcels in 2017 in anticipation of the project. He removed asbestos from an old house in the area, which was owned by the African American Freeman family and may be converted into a future heritage site. Between the 1920s and 1950s, Seabreeze was one of the few beach resorts open to African Americans on the East Coast; the eponymous Freeman Park is located nearby Seabreeze.
Wolf’s second rezoning request would shift 0.44 acres on 1132 Sea Breeze Road from B-2, regional business, to R-7, residential for a maximum of two single-family detached residential dwelling units. The property owner is Sandra McKeithan.
Planning board member Clark Hipp was the sole vote against the residential rezoning, arguing the area and nearby businesses would become too encumbered by additional residences.
The rezoning recommendations accelerate recent developments along the Carolina Beach corridor. During a contentious September meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 to approve a 7.37 rezoning request to facilitate higher density residential development in Seabreeze. Developer SB Cottages seeks to build 46 new townhomes in the area.
Over 500 opposed residents signed a petition against the rezoning, citing traffic concerns, increased stormwater, environmental degradation, and preservation of the area’s historical legacy.
Later that month, the planning board recommended rezoning 12.68 acres to pave the way for a 200 unit residential complex by McAdams Homes. Seven residents spoke in opposition to the request, similarly expressing distress about increased traffic and stormwater problems.
Tips or comments? Email journalist Peter Castagno at firstname.lastname@example.org.