Residents oppose rezoning, New Bern Board of Aldermen denied request

Traffic on Washington Post Road in front of Planters Ridge and Lake Tyler subdivisions.
Traffic on Washington Post Road in front of Planters Ridge and Lake Tyler subdivisions.

City Hall’s courtroom was packed during the New Bern Board of Aldermen meeting on July 11. Many in attendance were there in opposition to a rezoning request. The request was made by Stars & Stripes 4F, LLC to rezone 20.44 acres of land from R-10A to R-8 residential at the intersection of Washington Post (NC highway 43) and Olivia roads.

Jessica Rhue, director of Development Services, presented the request to the board. She explained, “Anytime we look at zoning changes, we look at the consistency with our land use plans. This area is covered by two of our land use plans, our 2022 Land Use Plan update and our 2010 Land Use Plan.”

After Rhue’s presentation, Alderman Hazel Royal asked, “Has the developer identified exactly what would be developed on that property?” Rhue said the applicant was there to answer questions and stated she “had not been presented plans with exactly with what would go on that property.”

The BOA meeting was opened for a public hearing. Among attendees, 18 residents spoke in opposition to the rezoning request.

A number of residents asked what the developer planned to do with the property. It was not discussed during Rhue’s presentation, but the applicant’s representative, Attorney Eric Remington with Ward and Smith discussed the plans during the June 5 Planning and Zoning board meeting. He said the plans are to build multi-family housing and the rezoning request was to increase the density. He also said, “I believe the maximum is around 200 units there and it would be easily, three-story apartment buildings.”

The discussion went on for over an hour with a long list of concerns. The biggest one — traffic. There are approximately 800 homes in five communities (Colonial Mobile Home Park, Lake Tyler subdivision, Planters Ridge subdivision, Gracie Farms Road, Briarwood Lane and houses along Washington Post Road) that converge within a half mile stretch of NC 43. Residents described hundreds of accidents, some with fatalities. One man said his vehicle was totaled.

A married couple wanted to know how the major construction would impact their quality of life and property value.

A few people also asked about EPA studies and voiced concerns for wildlife habitat. Some mentioned the wetland area.

Another resident asked if any consideration had been given to rolling blackouts and questioned whether Duke Energy and the City of New Bern could handle additional customers.

Remington introduced the applicant’s other representatives, one being Tyler Johnson, who explained Stars & Stripes 4F took over the development in 2016. He said they cleaned up the area, demolished an old house and built the pool area.

Alderman Bobby Aster asked, “Why can’t we petition the state to lower the speed limit? Maybe look at lowering to 35.”

Alderman Barbara Best responded, “We just had it changed to 50. The state wouldn’t lower to 45.”

Best made a motion to not adopt a motion to rezone properties on Washington Post Road identified as tax parcel ID 8-223-003 and 8-223-004 from R10A to R8. Royal seconded it. The motion carried 4-3 with Aldermen Best, Royal, Bob Brinson and Johnnie Ray Kinsey voting yes to deny the request. Mayor Jeffrey Odham and Aldermen Bobby Aster and Rick Prill voted no.

When New Bern Now asked Director Rhue about the zoning requirements for apartments, she replied, “Apartment complexes require a Special Use Permit from the Board of Adjustment in both zoning districts. Any apartments regardless of the zoning will have to go through the development review committee and subsequently a quasi-judicial hearing at the Board of Adjustment.”

The properties remain zoned as R10A. Here are the permissible uses.

Wendy Card, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments