Sunday, June 4, 2023

Some concerned about impacts of proposed BHI Limited development


SOUTHPORT, N.C. (WECT) – A massive proposed development could nearly double the City of Southport’s population and add new commercial space within city limits if it gets the green light.

“I hope they don’t approve it,” said Southport native Stuart Callari. “We just can’t handle any more people.”

Indigo Plantation Phase 2, commonly referred to as Project Indigo, is an expansion of an existing development owned by Bald Head Island Limited. It covers about 375 acres just off of Robert Ruark Drive. If approved, the development would add more than 1,500 residential units to the city’s limits, which is worrisome for neighbors across the street like Callari.

“It’s been very nice until the recent developments around,” said Callari. “I decided to plant hedges as a barrier against the traffic and the noise.”

On top of the 1,500 new neighbors, Callari’s neighborhood could also see commercial space across the street. BHI Limited CEO Chad Paul says the development hopes to include retail space, restaurants and even an assisted living facility. This would require a move to rezone several acres of the property to PUD zoning. The city’s planning board considered that at last week’s meeting and brought up several concerns of their own.

“The city does not currently have the electrical capacity to service a new PUD,” said planning board chair Sue Hodgin during last week’s meeting.

One concern discussed at the planning board meeting was the threat to Southport’s small-town charm. Paul says that’s not something he thinks residents should worry about as developers understand what’s at risk and care just as much about the town’s atmosphere.

“We have a huge investment in this community,” said Paul. “We would never develop anything that’s going to detract from the quaintness of Southport.”

After presenting the findings of the board, Hodgin announced the decision to not recommend the approval of BHI Limited’s rezoning request. Still, developers East West and BHI Limited are not giving up.

“We’re going to proceed through the process with the aldermen now over the next 90 to 100 days,” said Paul. “We’re going to take those recommendations into account and work it through with the aldermen.”

“The board of alderman has followed this closely,” said Mayor Joseph Hatem. “They usually go with the recommendation of the planning board because they have done the research on it and looked at it from many many angles and many sides.”

Hatem says a large majority of the feedback they’ve gotten from citizens is that they don’t want such a large development. Now, it’s up to the Board of Aldermen to decide if those concerns are reason enough to go against the recommendation from the Planning Board.

“We listen to the voice of the people,” said Mayor Hatem. “Does it fit the character? Does it promote historic preservation? Does it promote public health and safety?”

The Board of Aldermen’s next meeting is set for August 11 but Mayor Hatem says he plans to schedule a town hall meeting soon so neighbors can weigh in.

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