Wrightsville Beach aldermen moved into closed session at the end of a June 12 public meeting to consider the de-annexation of the 12.2 acre Galleria property on Wrightsville Avenue for a proposed mixed-use development.
The town said no to the prospect of a deannexation a year ago when State Street Companies, that purchased the land in July 2013 for for $6.52 million, requested the de-annexation to develop a multi-use project on the site.
Traditionally the town of Wrightsville Beach has not supported any residential developments on its annexed properties west of the Heide Trask Drawbridge because it would create a voting base on the mainland.
In June 2013, State Street Companies representative attorney Michael Lee said the land was no longer viable for a solely commercial development and that only a multi-use development would work.
Lee also argued that the current annual property tax total of just more than $7,000 that the town collects was not a significant portion of the town’s total $10.6 million budget.
The town passed its $10.2 million 2014-15 FY budget last night.
During the 2013 public hearing, seven Wrightsville Beach residents spoke against the de-annexation, including Wrightsville Beach Alderwoman Lisa Weeks who said she could not make any sense of a decision that would give up tax revenue and that the town should hold on giving up any commercial property.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair called for a second public hearing, 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 17 at town hall chambers. Former Mayor Bob O’Quinn and Wrightsville Beach Foundation officer Jim Smith are both expected to speak.
Smith, a Harbor Island resident has said he was concerned about the precedent a de-annexation could set, especially concerning the ABC Store next to the Galleria property, which is also on Wrightsville Beach property.
Jeff Kentner, president of State Street Companies as well as a Wrightsville Beach property owner, was present during the 2013 public hearing and said he would rather develop the project within the town of Wrightsville Beach jurisdiction and that he would be willing to work with the town to develop a new planning zone for mixed use.
“Whether this land is in Wilmington or Wrightsville Beach I believe Wrightsville Beach would benefit from a sophisticated multi-use development in that area,” Kentner said.
The ultimate decision of whether or not the property is de-annexed rests with the North Carolina General Assembly. Then Mayor David Cignotti said he knew the developer had already asked a local delegate to begin the process of introducing a de-annexation bill.
Attorney Michael Lee said State Street was hoping for support from the town because the NCGA looks upon de-annexation requests more favorably when all municipalities involved consent.
On June 28, 2013, one day after Wrightsville’s June 27, 2013 hearing Wilmington City Council did not reach a quorum for its special meeting to discuss the de-annexation. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and Councilman Kevin O’Grady were present and announced, because of the actions of the Wrightsville Beach Board of Alderman, city council would not pursue the issue further despite having called the meeting to support the de-annexation.
Cole Dittmer contributed to this story