My thoughts: Dockside wins approval to redevelop Airlie Road parking area

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After three years of petitioning the Wilmington City Council, the owners of Dockside Restaurant and Marina won approval on Tuesday to redevelop the gravel parking area in the lot across Airlie Road from the restaurant.

The improvements would undoubtedly be an upgrade over current conditions, which have visitors to Dockside dodging traffic and kicking up dust with each visit.

But neighbor opposition and concerns over this project have followed it through several hearings, including the Tuesday hearing where the council voted 7-0 to approve a special use permit for the properties at 1303 and 1308 Airlie Road.

In fact, the Wilmington City Council changed part of the zoning of the project to help ease neighbors’ continued concerns.

Mayor Pro-Tem Margaret Haynes said that parking lot area should remain zoned R-15, instead of being reclassified as R-5, to “give some sense of protection to the neighbors.” Councilmember Charles Rivenbark agreed and pushed forward the motion that kept the parking area R-15, which won a unanimous vote.

One neighbor, Kevin Parker, said that there were some worries that by granting the special use permit for the parking area, it would create much more value in the property, prompting concerns it could be sold or otherwise changed.

“He now has parking he can use for redevelopment across the street,” Parker said.

The restaurant’s developers proposed paving part of the Dockside parking lot, creating a standardized drive aisle and adding a pedestrian walkway and a T-head turnaround for oversized vehicles, as well as overall improving the depth and space for parking. The existing trees in the parking lot would be preserved, as well as would low-impact stormwater management systems.

The proposal would also add two “patio homes” to the back of the lots, prompting the requirement for the commission to approve rezoning to the more-dense R-5 classification.

Neighbors also raised concerns over density. However, Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions and representing Dockside, said that the developers needed to add the houses to the property to pay for the upgrades to the parking lot.

“We all know that economics are a major issue in positive business decisions,” Wolf told the Wilmington Planning Commission in April. “The possibility for development of two additional home lots will allow for the investment in the improvements.”

Have your voice heard.

Got something on your mind about Wrightsville Beach? Want to have your say? I am opening the “My Thoughts” column to guest writers from the Wrightsville Beach area.

Business owners, clergy, politicians and students are all invited, but you don’t need a title, just an idea.

I’ll even help you write if you think you could use the help.

I’m willing to consider columns on almost any topic, under a few conditions. All topics must be local or regional. No opinions on the president, Congress or other national topics.

They also need to be neutral. No attacks on local politicians, organizations or businesses. No overt promotion of a business or a cause. It should present a somewhat balanced view, even if you are promoting one side of the issue. Of course, our Letters to the Editor section is also available if you only have a little, and not a lot, to say.

If you’re interested, write me at terrylane@luminanews.com or call (910) 719-9180. I’d be happy to hear your ideas.

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