Wilmington Planning Commission approves Starway Flea Market rezoning

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Carolina Beach Road landmark is one step closer to being demolished to make way for new housing.

The Starway Flea Market, formerly the Starway Drive-in, sits on 15.6 acres of land currently zoned for commercial use.

A developer looking to bulldoze the structure and replace it with an affordable housing complex has requested the land be rezoned to Multiple-family, medium-high density Residential.

On Wednesday, the Wilmington Planning Commission heard a presentation from the developer and feedback from the community.

Some neighbors brought up concerns about traffic and safety.

“Come on out to the stretch of Carolina Beach Road and imagine what it would be like for children to cross that part of 421,” said Sunset South resident Susan Shalhoub. “It’s notorious, it’s treacherous, it’s considered one of the most dangerous parts of the entire highway.”

Despite traffic concerns, planning commission chair J.C. Lyle says rezoning to residential would likely mean less congestion than if a new commercial structure were built.

“The current zoning districts would have allowed uses that could have potentially created 8,000 trips per day and what we did was downzone to a multi-family district, whether it’s affordable or not in the end, that would have probably less than 3,000 cars per day,” Lyle said.

Rezoning would allow the developer to build up to 390 apartments, although a spokesman claims the total number of units would be kept under 300. The proposal also promises to make the new housing affordable.

“The requirements would be an average of 60 percent area median income, so they could have people making 80 or 70 or 50, as long as they averaged, so it will probably end up being a sort of mixed income neighborhood,” Lyle said of the proposal.

However, because the property is being rezoned instead of being issued a conditional use permit, the developer is not required to follow-through with the promise of affordable housing.

While many agree that affordable housing is needed in Wilmington, they feel that stretch of Carolina Beach Road is not a good fit.

“This location is not where it should go,” Shalhoub.

Several expressed a desire to keep the flea market, but the planning commission cannot control how a property owner uses its land.

Wilmington City Council will make a final vote on the rezoning at a later date.

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