St. James Center, a 139-acre commercial/multi-family project, is approved north of NC 211

  • State Port Pilot:  By Terry Pope, Staff Writer

The project by Homer Wright, St. James Plantation founder, sets aside 53 acres for multi-family development and 39 acres for commercial, with a total of 1,902 units proposed.

Brunswick County Planning Board members approved the conceptual plan at their meeting Monday night. No one spoke at a public hearing other than St. James Plantation vice-president of land development Mark Brambell.

Brambell told the board initial plans called for a grocery store chain to anchor the commercial site but a deal was never reached. He said plans to widen N.C. 211 to four lanes and how that will interact with the project leaves a lot yet to be determined.

“That’s why we have not gone into a greater level of detail,” said Brambell.

St. James Center will be developed in clusters of multi-family sections and will interconnect with the Town of St. James offices and community center tract.

The property being developed by subsidiaries Canal Associates and Harbor Development Corp. fronts Committee Drive at St. James Executive Park and wraps around the town hall site. It will have two access roads to N.C. 211, one via St. James Drive and a new road just west of town hall.

The developer is proposing 39 acres of open space, of which 10.15 acres will be recreational space and a park. It will be developed as a “town center” with public access to commercial businesses and scattered multi-family units around a large pond and park connected by a network of paths and walking trails.

Plans are to link the project with a county greenway trail that’s proposed along N.C. 211. Brambell said developers have negotiated an easement with the town to build a street behind the back lot at town hall that will connect the commercial sites.

Commercial parcels fronting N.C. 211 will exist on both sides of town hall. Brambell was asked if he thought a grocery store would still be attracted to build there.

“At this time, it’s too early to say,” said Brambell. “Do I see a multi-use on it? Yes. Do I see a grocery store? Not yet.”

Brambell was also asked if the property was going to become part of incorporated St. James.

“At this stage, there is no talk about annexation,” said Brambell.

“I was wondering, since they’re using the St. James name,” said planning board chairman Eric Dunham. “I was just wondering.”

After discussion with Brambell, the board voted to approve the conceptual plan on a motion by member William Bittenbender and seconded by Joy Easley. The board has final say over the plan; it does not have to go to county commissioners for approval.

Developers will have vested rights for three years to complete the plan in detail, with an option to seek a two-year extension from the county planning board.

Brunswick County zoning administrator Helen Bunch said a neighborhood meeting was held on November 29 at the St. James Community Center to allow residents to view the plans. The county’s unified development ordinance requires such meetings for planned unit development applications.

The open-house-style meeting hosted by project representatives from Paramounte Engineering attracted just 14 residents. They heard a presentation by Brambell and also spoke with Paramounte engineer Tim Clinkscale and Paramounte land planner Jim Cirello.

In a report to county planners, Paramounte stated attendees were generally supportive of the plan and asked a limited number of questions related to project timing, improvements to N.C. 211 and connections within the project to adjoining parcels.

“After discussion with the developer, all seemed pleased,” the report states. “No negative comments were heard at the meeting.”

That was also the case Monday, as no residents from St. James attended the county planning board meeting.