Calabash developer submits anti-federal housing letter

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

CALABASH—The developer of Calabash Town Center was required to submit a letter to the town last month stating plans for the development would not consist of low-income housing.

Jim Myers of Shallotte Partners wrote a letter to Calabash Town Administrator Vincent Long after it was requested by the town, Calabash Town Clerk Kelley Southward said last week.

“Please let this letter serve as our verification that the financing to be provided for [Calabash Town Center] will NOT provide Low Income Housing assistance nor will serve as Section 8 Housing,” Myers wrote in the Dec. 12 letter. “Additionally, no governmental agency will provide any funding or rental housing assistance.”

Myers wrote the proposed 216 multi-family-apartment project would adhere to the Federal Housing Authority program requiring a minimum number of apartments to be built in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In addition to 18 apartment buildings, proposed plans call for developing adjacent commercial strips fronting Old Georgetown and Clariday roads on the 22.5-acre tract.

“A review of the current design and plans will [assure] that each of these apartment units will incorporate a very high level of architectural finishes and provide more amenities than any other apartment community in Brunswick County,” Myers wrote, reiterating similar statements made at the Dec. 9 town commissioners’ meeting.

Southward said the town also is awaiting legal guidance to determine if commissioners have the authority to allow a higher 43-foot height to accommodate a pitched roof for the three-story apartment buildings.

“We’re still waiting to get something solid from the town attorney, so it’s kind of pending on what we hear from him,” she said. “If there’s a problem or something illegal, I imagine it will probably come back on the agenda.”

In December, a majority of commissioners—John Melahn, Forrest King and Bill Dixon —said they favored the height leeway above the town’s maximum 35 feet to allow for a more attractive roofline. Commissioners Emily DiStasio and Cecelia Herman opposed the higher variance because it doesn’t abide by the town ordinance.

Calabash Mayor Anthony Clemmons, who doesn’t vote on such issues unless there’s a tie, said with land growing more expensive, he didn’t think commissioners should “box in” development on height.

At a specially called meeting about the project Dec. 2, town administrator Long questioned the developer’s change of plans to build l- and 2-bedroom apartments rather than 3-bedroom units as originally proposed about a year ago. He said that could mean a reduction in property value and taxes.

“You’ve got to think what kind of people you’ll be attracting,” he said. “Who’s going to be living there?”

The buzz around town also has consisted of concern about the possibility of low-income housing going in at the undeveloped site, which abuts The Thistle Golf Club and residential community to the west.

Local apartment owner Don Hege, in attendance at the Dec. 9 meeting, asked Myers point-blank if “this going to be a HUD project?”

“Absolutely not,” Myers responded.

He described the proposed development as “the absolute best apartment building in Brunswick County, like Crow Creek and Brunswick Plantation. This will be the most attractive and visible project in Calabash.”

Southward said the town subsequently asked Myers to submit the letter stating he does not plan to use government funds to build the apartments.

Penny Tysinger, director of planning and development services with the Cape Fear Council of Governments, said the request may be apropos since the developer seeks a conditional-use permit.

She said there often is a fear about what will be done with adjacent, undeveloped properties.

“That’s why people like conditional-use zoning,” Tysinger said. “Once it’s approved, that’s the only thing that can go there.”