MEMO TO: Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners
FROM: Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager
SUBJECT: Proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center - (Summary & Suggested Motions)
The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to conduct the commercial review of the proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center at the October 11 meeting. As part of the commercial review, the Board will consider the site plan, building elevations, and lighting plan for the proposed shopping center to insure compliance with Town zoning and other development regulations. The Board will also consider proposed traffic improvements to be installed by the developer at the intersection of Emerald Drive / Mallard Drive as part of the project, and is asked to indicate its preference for a new traffic signal or a new roundabout at this location.
The attached memo from Town Planner Josh Edmondson includes a detailed discussion about the site plan, building elevations, and lighting plan for the proposed project. We have also attached detailed project plans for the Board’s review, in both large and small format. (Attachment 1, Attachment 2, Attachment 3)
The developer of the project is C4 Emerald Isle LLC, represented by Austin Williams of the parent company, Crosland Southeast. Crosland Southeast is a successful commercial and mixed use real estate development firm involved in numerous large projects in the southeastern United States. More information about the company is available at http://croslandsoutheast.com/ .
The proposed project includes a ~ 31,500 sq. ft. grocery store and associated parking on a ~ 6.4 acre tract of land bounded by NC 58, Mallard Drive / Emerald Landing Drive, the western portion of Archers Creek, and the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center. A total of 4 existing parcels would be recombined into the main grocery store parcel, a new parcel to be deeded to the Emerald Landing community to the north, and an outparcel. The property is zoned Business, and a grocery store is a permitted use in the Business zoning district.
The project site would be accessed via Mallard Drive and Crew Drive, and an additional connection to the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center. A separate agenda item on the October 11 meeting agenda includes Board consideration of C4 Emerald Isle LLC’s request for the Town to legally close, redesignate, and improve (at the developer’s expense) Crew Drive traversing this property.
At the Town’s request, the developer has placed a special emphasis on maximizing the natural buffer between the new grocery store and the Emerald Landing subdivision residents to the north, and has also made a special effort to protect egret habitat along the adjacent creek.
Town Planner Josh Edmondson has worked closely with C4 Emerald Isle LLC’s design team, and has determined that the site plan, building elevations, and lighting plan meet all applicable Town requirements (subject to routine conditions noted in the attached memo from Edmondson). The Planning Board conducted its commercial review of the project at its August 22 meeting, and unanimously recommended approval.
Role of the Board of Commissioners – Proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center
As noted above, the property is zoned Business (and has been for several years), and a grocery store is a permitted use by right. As such, the Board of Commissioners’ role is essentially to verify that the project plans comply with all applicable Town zoning and development ordinances. If the project plans comply, it is extremely difficult for the Board of Commissioners to deny the project, and denial runs the risk of legal challenge. The commercial review process is in stark contrast to a rezoning request or a special use permit request, both of which provide the Board of Commissioners with significant discretion.
In recent weeks, several questions have been raised regarding the perceived need / demand for a second grocery store in Emerald Isle. Those are legitimate questions, however, it is not the Town government’s place to answer those questions. The appropriate answer to those questions is dictated by the free market, and the Town does not have an appropriate role in deciding which particular business initiative should proceed or is needed. The Town’s role is simply to determine if the general type of use is compatible with the surrounding area and whether or not it complies with applicable, established development regulations. In the case of the proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center, that determination has already been made by previous elected officials in the form of the Town’s zoning map and established development regulations. As you know, the Town certainly does not get involved in whether or not another ice cream shop, or seafood restaurant, or pizza place, or gift shop, or gas station, etc. is needed. Those decisions have been and will continue to be made by the free market.
In the case of the proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center, the Board does have significant discretion on three key decision points associated with the proposed project. First, the Board has complete discretion on the requested closing, redesignation, and improvement of Crew Drive that is included in a separate agenda item on October 11. If the Board denies that request, there is no need to consider the project plans for the proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center at the October 11 meeting, as that decision will necessitate a significant revision to the project plans.
Second, the Board has complete discretion on the requested sign ordinance amendment that is also included in a separate agenda item on October 11. If the Board does not approve the requested sign ordinance amendment, the Board may still consider the project plans for the proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center, and the developer will be required to comply with the Town’s current sign ordinance. Third, the Board has significant discretion on the traffic signal or roundabout question, and, if the project plans are approved, should indicate its preference at the October 11 meeting.
Proposed Road Improvements – Crew Drive, Mallard Drive
As noted previously, C4 Emerald Isle LLC is proposing significant road improvements to Crew Drive. If approved by the Board under a separate agenda item on October 11, Crew Drive would become private but with new legal status to maintain the public’s right to use the road in perpetuity. The new roadway would continue to function in the same historical manner as Crew Drive, and the public would be guaranteed the ability to use the roadway in perpetuity. The new roadway would be widened (generally from 20 ft. to 28 ft.) and resurfaced, curb and gutter and new sidewalks would be installed, and appropriate storm water features and attractive landscaping would also be installed, all at the developer’s expense. The roadway would be a two-lane road, as it has been historically. The developer would be responsible for maintenance of the new roadway in the future, and it would not be considered part of the Town’s public street network.
The C4 Emerald Isle LLC is also proposing significant street improvements to Mallard Drive, which would remain a public street, but improvements would be funded by the developer. The Town would continue to be responsible for maintenance of Mallard Drive in the future. The proposed improvements include construction of additional turn lanes, installation of curb and gutter, and a new sidewalk. The project plans also indicate construction of a new sidewalk segment from the existing NC 58 sidewalk to the new grocery store near the center of the overall parcel, on private property.
Traffic Impacts, Traffic Signal or Roundabout?
As noted, if the project plans are approved, the Board is asked to express its preference for either a new traffic signal or roundabout at the Emerald Drive / Mallard Drive intersection. The selected improvement will also be funded by C4 Emerald Isle LLC, and coordinated with the NC Department of Transportation and the Town. As you know, this intersection is currently served by STOP signs on Mallard Drive, and a center turn-lane on NC 58.
The developer commissioned a traffic impact analysis, completed by SEPI Engineering and Construction, Raleigh, NC. SEPI is an experienced traffic engineering firm and has worked closely with NCDOT on other projects. NCDOT has reviewed the traffic impact analysis and has confirmed it meets NCDOT standards and is an accurate and reliable analysis. A copy of the traffic impact analysis is attached, along with NCDOT’s comments, and the developer’s response to those comments.
The traffic impact analysis indicates that either a new traffic signal or a new roundabout will be effective in addressing the traffic impacts associated with the proposed project. NCDOT has concurred with that assessment, and is awaiting the Town’s preference. NCDOT has indicated that a roundabout is preferred over an additional traffic signal, but if the Board determines that a traffic signal is preferred then I believe that NCDOT will ultimately support that decision.
The specific design of a new roundabout has not yet been prepared, however, I have attached an example of a potential (I stress, potential) design that might be considered. In the attached example, a single-lane roundabout is shown, but with dedicated right turn lanes on 3 prongs of the roundabout. If the Board determines that a roundabout is preferred, our intent is to task the developer and NCDOT with the specific design of the roundabout, and then return to the Board of Commissioners at a future meeting for approval of the specific design.
Austin Williams will attend the meeting, and be available to explain his design approach with the Board of Commissioners and answer any questions. Josh Edmondson and I look forward to assisting the Board with the commercial review for the proposed Egret Landing Shopping Center and the traffic signal / roundabout discussion.