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Wrightsville Beach
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

My thoughts

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The City of Wilmington has broken trust with the residents and business owners of Wrightsville Sound.

Everything residents fought a pitched and protracted battle to prevent has been realized.

Of course I mean the large, unattractive apartment complex that has destroyed the coastal look and feel of this unincorporated community on the eastern edge of New Hanover County, the gateway to Wrightsville Beach, lying on the edge of the City of Wilmington.

Evidence of the city’s elected officials’ duplicity in issuing a special use permit for the construction of this mixed use project over neighbors’ strong objections is there for all to see.

Then too, what was built is not even what was approved.

The mammoth grouping of non-coastal buildings, under construction since 2014, is incredibly out of place on the 4.5 acre site where before the historic and beloved Babies Hospital and UNCW Marine Science facility sat surrounded by gracious live oaks, buffered by bucolic views of the Summer Rest pond (Motts Pond) teeming with fish and water birds.

The sad thing is the developer, Bailey and Associates, built something that would have looked fine in their hometown of Jacksonville, North Carolina. But in this pristine setting, on the historic Wrightsville Avenue corridor, in the heart of this unique coastal community, it is an eyesore.

The city promised Wrightsville Sound residents their fears were unwarranted, as did the Baileys.

Residents who spoke during the numerous public hearings referenced the Wrightsville Sound Small Area Plan, adopted July 2011, and expressed their concern over the incompatibility of the proposed construction with the surrounding area, and its inconsistency with the area’s character.

They noted that there are no other 50-foot-tall buildings in the Wrightsville Sound Small Area, which would make this one conspicuous, out of character and not in harmony with the area.

How right they were.

Adding insult to injury, the city turned a blind eye to the protection of the trees.

BabiesHospitalTreeDSC_0013Besides the other large and small trees maimed or sacrificed to construction and views, the significant heritage live oak that graced the eastern portion of the property has been horribly disfigured.

Time and again, tree cutters whacked away at limbs and branches. The cuts have been numerous and pronounced, including amputation of the noteworthy long, low, eastern-reaching horizontal limbs.

Pat's no 1The drip line of the tree, ringed with orange webbing for a majority of the construction, gave the appearance of protection — lulling those concerned about the tree into a false sense of security. All the while, the cutting continued surreptitiously.

The area of protective orange webbing shrank repeatedly, then heavy equipment and construction materials were parked on top of the great tree’s horizontal roots, compacting the extended root system still below.

Frantic calls and emails have fallen on the deaf ears of the city’s arborist and elected officials.

Clearly the process has not worked. The mayor, council and city manager eager for coins in the tax coffers are not to be trusted. Neither is the arborist on staff.

Is it any wonder residents of nearby Airlie Road are so freaked out about the proposal to add residential units to a parking lot of a restaurant in their neighborhood?  How can they trust the city with their property values and quality of life?

An arborist can be bought; the city at Mayor Bill Saffo’s urging needs to step up and appoint a committee of three people, plus an arborist to oversee its enforcement of its tree protection ordinance. Enforcement and consequences need to have teeth. Significant fines must be levied when the ordinance is ignored.

City leaders can and should direct responsible growth and development compatible with neighborhoods. If not, we need new elected leaders.

The city is getting less attractive by the week as saws cut and cut and cut away what contributes so much to the beauty and health of the city.

When you destroy the golden goose, there are no more golden eggs.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I am as shocked as anyone who lives here, in particular, and own an old home here, on Wrightsville Beach.
    The approach to the tranquil, ICW and Drawbridge announcing that you are entering a special beach town, once open, green, blue skies, and with nothing built near this entrance is gone. The loss of an era.

    I actually noticed how it was being built, wondering how the trees could be allowed to slowly disappear, when they had been marked with bright bands of taping, obviously to preserve them. I, in particular, had a fairly disturbing feeling, as I was driving back and forth between Chapel Hill, N. C. and home here, and thus, gradually saw something shifting. I was privy to some sort of twisted view changing, and not paying attention to the news, or the agreements, I was stunned. It seemed “less green” and with less trees in particular, and with more buildings.
    It is truly, a break in trust. I am sure the Baileys, who seem to have more money than necessary NOT to need to have been a huge part of this, are truly a huge reason this occurred in the manner of which we speak.

    Who, I ask honestly, with any integrity, and respect for the land and waters here, whether they live here or not, (which they apparently don’t, most of the time, since home is Jacksonville, N. C. ~although they have homes and a huge boat in particular parked on the island ), could do this, when they actually could have had such an opportunity, to have created a desired enhancement to this area, gaining respect, and a chance to build a legacy in tribute to their family name, through ways they could possibly have improved our beach and sound land, including the ICW , which the monstrosity is built along, which is considered a National Treasure that we have free access to along the entire East Coast U. S. Seaboard.
    There are many different ways to make money and still preserve your name as well as building trust. Just listening to the history of how all of this happened in the Editorial, and looking at the outrage, the ones who did not want this, and were even outspoken, and were promised something not delivered, tells a story of truth and dishonesty.

    Clearly we do not need and do not even allow high density building any longer on our small, fragile island of Wrightsville Beach. Somehow people who actually own houses down here, the Baileys, don’t seem to mind over-running the numbers now of people who will simply walk or drive, (,ha if they can find a place to park), to the beach, as they return to the development across the bridge, not having to be a part of nor care about the island we who do live here, call home. At least there are some of us still shocked, and we should be, at the development that has never seemed to stop since LandFall was built decades ago. It stretches along the ICW and never seems to stop growing and selling even more land and homes.

    How much and how many is enough?
    Why, when a space is as limited as our’s is, do people simply care more about their own pockets of money than anything that so many people are AGAINST simply because of the broken trust, and the ruined view by not even attractive buildings? There is a limit to how much citizens will put up with. Once , not too many generations ago, a man’s or woman’s word was good enough to count on even in dire cases, land trading, wars waging….now we are left with disappointment, and a huge block of concrete in our faces to remember the people responsible for it by.
    There is a great love of , and by many across the country actually, the beauty and natural estuaries, homes, neighborhoods here, in Wrightsville Beach. I have met and learned of people who come yearly as their vacation, even travelling long distances, for the far-stretching views from land toward the Atlantic Ocean, only a horizon away. There are also new visitors, enthralled with the beauty, nature, activities, and impressed with how much concern for the environment and other causes have been started here, creating fund-raisers along the beach front’s shore’s grand meeting places and hotels.
    Yes, there has been a lot broken here. As we know, or are beginning to learn even more about now, there is more development to come; one big space and example is the plaza once home to local businesses, Harris Teeter, and another familiar chain, a pharmacy, as well as our first ? scuba shop now moved, and a Wrightsville Avenue’s entrance to what is know as Wrightsville Beach, was leveled . It is located behind the lovely and historical area of Airlie Gardens.

    On this note, I don’t even believe it is natural, honest, or how we are intended to treat one another, to have mis-treated our land, with ANYONE breaking trust, and simply using money to make more, and to have had the nerve and false confidence that no one would be furious while the developers gradually were taking away fragile trees native to that part of the land, and the very VIEW to the island from the approach to Wrightsville Beach, N. C.

    I still don’t think it’s far fetched to see more about this story, and wonder how much time a town, people have to create a law-suit against people like these??

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