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LELAND—An information session for a proposed apartment complex next to Waterford subdivision brought out a number of residents with tough questions for the developer.
Hunter Gibson of Easlan Capital hosted two informational meetings Nov. 20 at the Leland Recreation Building at town hall. While a few Waterford residents said they attended just to find out what was planned, several more were vocal opponents.
The proposed complex would be called Vinings at Waterford, made up of 10 residential, three-story walk-up buildings, which would include 240 apartments; one, two and three bedroom units.
He said the complex would include a clubhouse with a cyber café, a pool, fitness center, multiple dog parks and a playground.
“It will have full amenities. Residents will have no reason to trespass,” Gibson said.
Hunter said Easlan Capital handles development, construction and management of its apartments.
“It will be luxury appearance and amenities, the highest-priced apartments in Leland. We intend (rents) will be a little less than they offer in Wilmington,” Gibson said.
Gibson said the main entrance would be placed near U.S. 17 next to the Goodwill building. A back street that would connect to Waterford would only be used as an exit, except for emergency service vehicles.
He added they intend for the apartments to be a gated community.
“I’m 99 percent sure Leland won’t allow gates,” said Nancy Durso, who attended the meeting with her husband, Peter, who presented a petition to Leland Town Council Nov. 15 opposing the property’s rezoning.
“There’s got to be a better location. Why did you choose this one?” Nancy Durso asked.
“This checks all the boxes for location—good residential, good retail, good road access,” Gibson said. “It’s a desirable place to be.”
Many Waterford residents who attended the presentation said they were disappointed after they were told the property would be used for commercial development.
“You have to understand, many people in Waterford built there because they are retirees. The last thing they expect to see is apartments,” Al Ismert said. “Go to another subdivision. Waterford says no.”
Lucy LaSalle said Waterford residents had already been burned by their developer, who promised commercial development.
“We’re gun-shy about you putting in 240 units, then leaving. What’s left there will affect our property values,” LaSalle said.
Several residents expressed concern the apartments would be built and marketed as luxury accommodations, but when demand isn’t there, the apartments will inevitably become subsidized housing.
Gibson was asked how long Easlan owns its apartments.
Gibson said they have owned some apartments for 11 and 12 years, but have sold some after five or six years.
“People buy for profit. If I’m buying an apartment, to make more profit I’d deal with the state to guarantee rent every month,” Nancy Durso said.
John Baum asked if the apartments would be built in phases.
Gibson said if it is done in phases, there would be no more than two phases, 120 units in each phase.
“If you do not fill the first phase, will you sell or walk away and then HUD comes in?” Baum asked.
Gibson said if Phase 1 is not successful, Phase 2 would remain open space.
“Banks require we put considerable equity into this. We can’t walk away,” Gibson said.
“Why this property, and not land near Walmart?” Lucy LaSalle asked.
“I’d rather rent next to Harris Teeter than Walmart,” Gibson said.
“We already have traffic problems at Harris Teeter. What happens when there are 500 new cars? We have problems already with theft, break-ins—you are doing a disservice to the community,” Nancy Durso said.
Gibson said with apartments in the location, traffic around the area would average about 1,600 trips per day, where retail would reach 4,500 trips per day.
Nancy Durso questioned if the plan Gibson presented would really be luxury apartments.
“I do not see that apartment as different than the ones near Walmart,” she said.
Gibson said the one-bedroom would run $750 per month; the three-bedroom would cost $1,100 per month.
“Those are not luxury prices,” Ismert said.
Gibson said prices were favorable to higher-end apartments in Wilmington.
Ismert said building apartments next to Waterford was like building a Yugo next to a Mercedes-Benz.
When asked what they would do with their trash, Gibson said a trash compactor would be installed at the front of the apartment complex.
Waterford residents questioned if people living in “luxury apartments” are going to carry their garbage in their cars to a compactor.
Nancy Durso said people were already sneaking in to Waterford to take advantage of the amenities; putting an apartment right next to the subdivision would make it worse.
“In the event residents trespass, call the police. We will have our security officer work with the homeowners association,” Gibson said.
When asked how quickly they would begin, Gibson said they would start construction as soon as they could.
But first he would take feedback received at the Nov. 20 meetings, and a Dec. 3 meeting, and include that input into a site plan to submit to the town of Leland.
“We think Waterford is a fantastic site. We are trying not to cause any trouble, and we hope (once the apartments are established) you will say it was not so bad,” Gibson said.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.