The Board of Commissioners will formally consider plans for a new grocery store in Emerald Isle at its October 11 meeting. The approximately 31,000 sq. ft. new store is proposed for an approximately 6 acre tract of land on NC 58 between Emerald Landing Drive and Emerald Plantation Shopping Center.
The proposed site is zoned Business (and has been for many years), and a grocery store (along with many other commercial uses) is a permitted use by right. Under NC zoning law, if the applicant meets the Town's zoning requirements, the Board of Commissioners has limited discretion in its review of development plans. This is in stark contrast to a rezoning or special use permit request, which provide the Board of Commissioners with significant discretion. Additionally, several questions have been raised regarding the perceived need / demand for a second grocery store in Emerald Isle. These 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 a role in deciding which particular business initiative is needed or should be afforded the opportunity to compete with existing businesses.
The proposed plans include a request to formally close, redesignate, and improve a 510 linear ft. segment of Crew Drive on the proposed site. The developer is requesting these actions in order to achieve a site layout that minimizes impacts on the neighboring Emerald Landing neighborhood and to preserve habitat for nesting egrets along the adjacent canal. It is important to note that the existing road would be replaced in the same location with an improved road, with new pavement, new curb & gutter, sidewalks, storm water features, and landscaping. The proposal includes adequate legal protections to insure that the improved road remains open for public use in perpetuity, and there is no ability for any private owner to restrict use of the roadway. The road would continue to function in the same manner as it has historically, and perhaps better. The Town would not even consider any proposal that does not include perpetual public use of the road in the future.
The Board of Commissioners has significant discretion in reviewing the road request, and is thoughtfully considering the pros and cons associated with this request. The developer has indicated that he intends to construct the new grocery store at this location regardless of the Town's decision regarding Crew Drive, and an alternate plan has been provided that maintains the current condition of Crew Drive. For various regulatory reasons, the alternate plan would require the proposed new store to be located closer to the Emerald Landing neighborhood, with potentially undesirable features (loading docks, generators, trash facilities, rear access) located closer to existing homes, and would not preserve as much egret habitat. The developer prefers the original plan (graphic below) over the alternate plan, and thus has requested the formal closing, redesignation, and improvement of the 510 linear ft. segment of Crew Drive.