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NHC Commissioners approve 65-acre development, get encouraging Covid-19 update

Benjamin Schachtman
New Hanover County Courthouse

During this week’s New Hanover County Commissioners meeting, officials got some cautiously optimistic news on the Covid-19 pandemic, and signed off on a major development that has struggled for approval in the past.

Health and Human Services Director Donna Fayko told commissioners that two key indicators were trending in the right direction.

“The good news is that we are 5.6% positivity rate -- just one month ago were at 9.1% positivity rate, so we’re making progress … and what I want to point out is just the peak that we saw following the Christmas holiday, and were we are trending downward following that peak, again, going in the right direction.”

[Editor's note: Positivity rate refers to the percentage of Covid-19 tests that come back positive; a 5% rate or less has been North Carolina's target for much of the pandemic.]

Fayko also told commissioners that county and healthcare workers have delivered close to 80,000 vaccines. Officials also expect to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine soon, although they don’t have specifics about the delivery date. The vaccine, the third approved by the FDA, proved 72% effective in U.S. trials, helps prevent moderate and serious cases, and only requires one shot instead of two.

Commissioners also considered a rezoning request for a 65-acre property at Mohican Trail and South College Road -- the last remaining undeveloped parcel of its size in the area. Developers of the Whiskey Branch project had attempted to rezone a smaller part of the property in 2019, but ran into pushback over traffic and building density.

The latest proposal won unanimous approval for the county’s planning board in February and, this week, won unanimous approval from commissioners, as well. Commissioner Rob Zapple thanked the developers Dry Pond, LLC for being flexible in finding a project that worked with the county’s planning staff.

“This has been a pretty successful journey for Dry Pond [LLC] developers in putting together -- and having the flexibility to listen to the community, listen to the planning board, and listen to the commissioners."

The development could include up to 460 residential units -- coming from a variety of single-family homes, duplexes, and apartments -- as well as commercial and retail.

Commissioners will convene again next week for a joint meeting with the Board of Education, on March 10.