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Whiteville council approves rezoning, annexation for apartments

By: Ivey Schofield, The News Reporter

The Whiteville City Council decided Tuesday, April 12, 2021, to rezone and annex a property on Love Mill Road that could accommodate an affordable housing apartment complex if the developer obtains tax credits from the state.

The council unanimously rezoned the 6.33 acre lot from commercial to multifamily housing. It then proceeded to unanimously approve annexing 3.67 acres of that lot.

Charles Irick of Charlotte, who owns the company that will develop the property, plans to construct a 60-unit apartment complex. It will have one- to three-bedroom apartments, ranging from $415–775 a month, for individuals with 50–70% of the average income.

Irick, who contracted a market study, stated that Whiteville had a demand for another 705 affordable housing units beyond the 773 it currently has. “In the community, there’s a need,” he said.

The managing company is committed to safety, requiring credit and criminal background checks on tenants and installing security cameras, according to Irick. It is also willing to evict problematic tenants, as demand for housing is greater than the 60 units this complex could provide.

“We don’t have a lot of turnover,” Irick said. “If you’ve got a unit and your rent is affordable, you don’t go. It’s hard to find another unit.”

Irick manages apartment complexes across the Southeast but said he would need tax credits from the North Carolina Housing Agency in order to make this project a reality. “If we do not get funding with the credits, we won’t purchase the property,” he said.

Positive and negative reactions

Not everyone attending the meeting in City Hall, however, agreed with Irick’s vision. Daniel Jeff Davis said that stormwater management is already a problem in the Food Lion shopping center near Love Mill Road, and the new development could worsen it. He said the value of homes surrounding affordable housing units could depreciate. He was also unhappy about dealing with an out-of-area company.

“I know people need a place to stay,” Davis said. “They need to go somewhere else.”

Dick Hayes expressed concerns over stormwater drainage, wildlife habitat damage and crime. “I think Whiteville needs more housing but not necessarily low-income housing and not necessarily at this location,” he said.

In the end, the council voted to approve the zoning and annexation over those objections.

“I know how difficult it is for people to find housing that they can afford,” said Council Member Vickie Pait, who is the executive director of Families First, which helps find housing for survivors of domestic abuse. “I’m going to have to make a motion that we approve.”

Council Member Kevin Williamson, a lawyer, has had clients who couldn’t find affordable emergency housing. “It’s sad to hear people complaining about these limitations,” he said. “I like that there’s some flexibility in housing and affordability [within Irick’s plan].”

In other news from the meeting, the council heard a public comment asking for the beautification of Doc Currie Park; scheduled a workshop to discuss land use amendments on May 3 at 12:30 p.m.; accepted a fire department grant for $9,700; approved the bid by Corbett Demolition of $6,200 for one house on Columbus Street using Hurricane Matthew grant funds; awarded phase two of the Commerce Street stormwater project to Hickman Utilities for almost $180,000; approved budget amendments relating to grant funds for COVID-19 relief and a water asset study; and accepted a bid of $16,950 for a three-year audit contract with Thompson, Price, Scott and Adams Co.