Local Interest
11:56 am
Mon October 2, 2006

Fighting the "Road Stub"

Wilmington, NC – New Hanover County Commissioners are scheduled to make a decision tonight on whether a current road stub can be turned into an actual road paving the way for a new development called Nautical Greens.

Protesting the road are residents who say they've been promised that it would never be made a promise that alleviated their concerns about future traffic and prompted them to build even closer to where the road could now travel.

Tucked deep inside the sprawling private community called The Cape Ellis McElroy has a new home that's situated in such a way that just five feet outside his bedroom window sits a muddy patch of land that he was promised would never turn into a street.

"All the neighbors that came to buy lots down this street from the time we bought our home people were told that this would not be developed."

What would not be developed is called a road stub. It's a reserved space for a possible new road that is clearly marked on all planning maps. It was on the map McElroy poured over before picking his lot in Becker Woods.

Developer Tommy Davis was looking to buy the land at the end of the road stub and develop it. But the landowner didn't want to sell and so Davis gave up on the road stub and wrote into his contract with McElroy that as a homeowner McElroy could mow what would have been a grassy patch outside his bedroom window.

"If we as owners of this lot, had known that in fact this road would be built and constructed, it would have been a very logical thing to flip our house design from right hand to left hand and our garage faced the street instead of our master bedroom suite."

Matt Murphy owns the land and the end of the road stub and he wants to turn it into Nautical Greens, a 35 home development proposed for inside the The Cape community.

Well, I expect to see homebuyers similar to what's coming into The Cape now, retires.

Murphy says his land was brought into The Cape a couple years ago, and now he's ready to build homes in the $300 to $400,000 range. But it all hinges on the county commission to approve turning it from a road stub into an actual road. It's the only one leading onto Murphy's property.

"If this road stub is not improved, we're practically dealing with a landlocked piece of property out here."

That's Sam Burgess, Principal Development Planner for the county. He's also McElroy's main contact at the planning department.

Yes, he and I have had a couple of spirited conversations about this initially and I can understand his concern with being next door to a platted road stub but then again it goes back to the buyer beware.

Part of what fuels those conversations is that McElroy's made a point of following Nautical Greens through the planning process. And has been to most every meeting held except the Technical Review Committee or TRC meeting in July. That meeting finally cleared the way for Nautical Greens. So how did McElroy miss that meeting? Copies of emails show that Burgess notified McElroy on a Tuesday for the meeting scheduled that next day - a Wednesday. But that notice sat in McElroy's inbox until Friday, prompting a spirited conversation on Monday.

And I said, Mr Burgess, you knew in writing two months earlier that we wanted to be here to talk about this issue, you knew two months earlier that we wanted to be here to talk about this issue. You knew you had a letter from homeowners, from our homeowners association you had letters from all the people around here and you didn't give us what I considered adequate notice to be here.

Burgess has his opinion about the missed email.

"To his credit that request was made by him, but it was made in writing. And obviously in situations like that you have to hold to memory the number of people who wants to hold a commitment or professional courtesy to and say hey something's coming back. And in this situation, fortunately or unfortunately the notice was made, but a day before the meeting."

Which Burgess says is adequate notice. McElroy disagrees. And it's probably time to point out here that McElroy is no Joe Citizen. He retired here from Alaska, where he worked for the FAA as a planner for building new airports. He's that guy, so he knows a thing our two about notifying homeowners about unpleasant future development.

"I don't feel I've received equal treatment here, I've been snubbed, I've been denied access to what should be a very open process here."

Burgess counters that TRC meetings are not open to the public, but if McElroy had come - as a courtesy - the TRC would likely had given him time to voice his opposition. But now the decision whether to make the road stub outside McElroy's window into the entrance for Nautical Greens is in the hands of county commissioners and on Monday night's agenda.

McElroy will be there, and says he'll probably loose the fight. And says he will also lose the joy of new neighbors. That the battle over the road stub is just too huge an obstacle for him to ever become friends with the future residents of Nautical Greens.