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Wilmington city council approves Wawa rezoning, supports railway to Raleigh

The proposed Wawa has faced pushback from local business owners who will lose their current space to the convenience store and gas station.
Grace Vitaglione
The proposed Wawa has faced pushback from local business owners who will lose their current space to the convenience store and gas station.

During Tuesday's meeting, council also voted to allot over $125,000 to Good Shepherd Center for the permanent supportive housing development on Carolina Beach Road.

The rezoning to make way for Wawa on South 17th street and Wellington Avenue passed 4-2.

The owner of the Samelin Center plans to sell the property to a developer that opens Wawa locations. That means several local businesses there will be pushed out–including PT’s Olde Fashioned Grille and Tinyz Tavern.

Tinyz Tavern has been there for 17 years and PT’s for 20.

Business owners who are renting the space protested the change at council’s last meeting earlier this month. The tenants said their landlord never told them about the sale.

Instead, some said they learned about it from a notice for a neighborhood public hearing about the proposed change.

The application to rezone the property went to council for a second reading on Tuesday.

Councilmember Charlie Rivenbark said he doesn’t like how the transaction was handled.

“I have no problem with this gentleman selling his property; I believe wholeheartedly in property rights and he has every right to do this. It just doesn’t feel right,” he said.

Rivenbark voted against the rezoning, along with Councilmember Kevin Spears.

The 2.4-acre gas station and convenience store would replace the Samelin Center property and three adjacent buildings: a vacant former Pizza Hut, an insurance building, and a hearing aid office.

Residents also brought concerns about congestion on 17th Street at council’s last meeting.

The developer plans to rectify that by realigning the left turn lanes from 17th Street for better visibility. They will also add a sidewalk and pedestrian crosswalk, a turn lane for the driveway on 17th Street, and moving the driveways on 17th and Wellington further from the intersection.

The Wawa would be the second one in North Carolina.

Proposed rail to Raleigh

Council also voted to support an application for creating a rail line to connect Wilmington and Raleigh.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation applied to build the railroad as part of a national program using federal funds to identify and develop rail corridors.

Those funds come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which included grants for rail projects.

If the NCDOT’s proposal is accepted, the program would award $500,000 to the project for creating a scope, schedule, and cost estimate.

From there, the project would have to match 10% of federal funds to develop a plan and 20% of funds to build the rail line itself.

Other stakeholders in the region have also submitted resolutions of support, such as the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Permanent supportive housing development

Council also voted unanimously last night to put over $125,000 toward a permanent supportive housing project.

The city gave the former site of Wilmington Fire Station 6, located on Carolina Beach Road, to Good Shepherd Center last September for the project.

Good Shepherd can build 33 units on the site, which is roughly an acre. But to cover the pre-development costs of that construction, the center asked the city of Wilmington for additional funding.

That money will come from the city’s sale of Optimist Park–which netted a profit of over $160,000.

The city decided to put those proceeds towards permanent supportive housing, and has spent over a third of it already–$20,000 of which to demolish the former fire station.

The rest will now go to Good Shepherd for the Carolina Beach Road project. The city will also dedicate $25,000 from the city’s sale of 1110 Castle Street — a former public transit facility.

Grace is a multimedia journalist recently graduated from American University. She's attracted to issues of inequity and her reporting has spanned racial disparities in healthcare, immigration detention and college culture. In the past, she's investigated ICE detainee deaths at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, worked on an award-winning investigative podcast, and produced student-led video stories.