Leland to consider annexing land near Battleship caught in development controversy

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Cape Fear River on February 21, 2022 (Photo: WWAY/Peyton Furtado)

LELAND, NC (WWAY) — A piece of land at the center of a zoning and development controversy could be annexed by one New Hanover County’s neighbors.

For the past year, KJF Development Group has presented plans to New Hanover County Commissioners on the Project Battleship Point. The group owns Point Peter, and is now turning to the Town of Leland for rezoning to the Town of Leland for rezoning and voluntary annexation.

Point Peter is a plot of land on the Western portion of the Cape Fear River, currently considered an industrial zone.

KJF developers asked New Hanover County Commissioners to rezone the area to a riverfront urban mixed use zone to build their project, Battleship Point. The development would include a 300-foot tall hotel, restaurants, and condominiums. The area is known for sever flooding during high tides and storms, and doesn’t have water or sewer lines.

“With more than a foot of sea level rise in the next 30 years.. and so with all of that in mind… building the largest set of buildings this area has ever seen in the lowest point of land in the entire area… it goes against common sense… it goes against science… it goes against every reasonable way of looking at it,” said the Cape Fear River Watch’s Kemp Burdette.

Burdette and the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s Travis Gilbert have been two outspoken voices in this debate. Burdette believes the building will be an environmental threat, potentially causing more flooding.

“It would reduce the floodplain’s ability to manage flooding,” Burdette continued. “It would bulkhead Point Peter area, and impact primary nursey area for tons of species of fish.”

Gilbert believes the building’s height could do a disservice to its neighbor, the North Carolina Battleship. Gilbert was confused when he found KJF raised Battleship Point’s height.

“We’re greatly alarmed that we’ve kind of gone backwards if this proposal were to be successful. Because the height restrictions do go up to 300 feet from 240 feet,” Gilbert said.

Leland’s Town Manager David Hollis said a great deal would go into these decisions. First, the planning committee would need to recommend the area’s zoning, then town council would vote on annexation.

“The annexation and initial zoning of a property does not dictate what the development is going to be or if the development is going to be developed at all,” said Hollis.

According to Hollis, this could be the first time Leland annexes from New Hanover County. Leland’s relationship with New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington would be part of the conversation.

New Hanover County responded to their voluntary annexation, “The county is gathering facts regarding the potential annexation discussion of the Battleship Point property that is before the Town of Leland, and will pay close attention to that conversation. At this time, Commissioners plan to hold a work session, likely in the coming month, to help form the county’s vision for the west bank of the Cape Fear River. As those details are finalized, they will be shared with the public.”

Tuesday night, the Leland Planning Board will discuss the rezoning request to make Point Peter Riverfront Mixed Use. After that, the planning board will meet again to decide, and Leland Town Council will decide on annexation in April.

We reached out to the developer’s attorney and have not heard back.

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