Developers looking to build on the Cape Fear River’s west bank have turned to Leland as they explore ways to push their project forward.

KFJ Development, the group behind plans for the Villages at Battleship Point, has asked Leland leaders to consider amending the town’s zoning ordinance to accommodate their project by establishing a Riverfront Mixed Use District.

It’s a request that mirrors the amendment KFJ Development pursued in New Hanover County in recent months.

The New Hanover County Planning Board denied the request in December. The company appealed the zoning change to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, which tabled a vote on the request. Instead, they opted for a separate meeting to discuss future west bank development.

If the new district is established in Leland, Point Peter, the land being eyed for development, would have to be annexed into the town for the district to be applied. That means KFJ Development could, in the future, annex land on the west bank into Leland.

The annexation would be the same as any other, said Ben Andrea, director of Leland’s Planning and Inspections Department.

More: Leland leaders weigh impact of proposed zoning changes on river’s west bank

“The Battleship Point potential annexation is no different than any other annexation that the town of Leland considers, in regards to process,” Andrea said.

Here’s how that would work along with some other questions about annexation:

What is annexation?

Annexation happens when a piece of land formally becomes part of a town or other municipal jurisdiction.

Annexing usually means the land will be governed by the rules of that municipality and can receive the public services offered inside municipal boundaries.

How does annexation work in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, land can be annexed voluntarily or involuntarily.

Property owners can apply to voluntarily annex their land into another municipality, regardless of whether the land is considered contiguous or non-contiguous to the municipality’s boundaries. 

Involuntary annexations more complicated as they are subject to urban development standards, mandatory service provisions and a referendum that requires approval by a majority of voters in the area that’s set to be annexed, according to state statute.

What are the differences between contiguous and non-contiguous annexations?

Land that is considered contiguous or adjacent to a municipality can be annexed into the jurisdiction with a petition from the person or people who own the property.

Non-contiguous land, however, must meet additional criteria. For example, it has to be located within three miles of the town’s boundaries and can’t be located closer to another municipality, unless the municipalities have established an annexation agreement.

More: Cape Fear River west bank developers explore annexation of existing site into Leland

Leland has annexation agreements with Belville and Navassa, which has allowed the town to annex land near the other towns’ boundaries, Andrea said.

Point Peter isn’t adjacent to Leland, so why is it considered contiguous?

The land being eyed for the Villages at Battleship Point isn’t geographically adjacent to Leland’s existing boundaries, but it’s still considered contiguous, Andrea said.

That’s because land is considered contiguous, under state statute, if it’s separated from the boundaries of  a municipality by a road, body of water or state-owned land. 

“The property itself does not necessarily have to abut land that’s in the town of Leland,” Andrea said.

A combination of those three elements separate Point Peter from the bounds of Leland, Andrea said.

If annexed, will the land become part of Brunswick County?

No, the land will remain part of New Hanover County, even if it is annexed into Leland, according to Andrea.

“The county boundaries would not change,” he said.

What is the annexation process?

To annex land into Leland, property owners need to submit an application for voluntary annexation.

The Leland Town Council would then approve a resolution directing the town clerk to examine the sufficiency of the application. This includes confirming it’s signed by the actual property owners and the land meets requirements for annexation.

Once that’s confirmed, the town council would accept a certificate of sufficiency.

The town would then hold a public hearing on the annexation and the Leland Town Council would vote on it.

How will the land be zoned?

The zoning of the land is usually given following approval of an annexation, Andrea said.

First, staff members from Leland’s planning department would make a recommendation to the town’s planning board, using the town’s land use plan as a guide. The board would then make a recommendation to the town council.

A public hearing would be held before the town council voted on the zoning for the newly annexed land.

“The public hearing for annexation and the public hearing for zoning are typically back-to-back at the town council meeting,” Andrea said.

Where is this process right now?

The Leland Planning Board discussed the requested text amendment last month.

It allows for “mixed-use development on properties between the Isabel Holmes Bridge and the Thomas Rhodes Bridge, along U.S. 421,” according to the text of the amendment. It would allow buildings up to 300 feet tall and proposes a minimum lot size of five acres.

Multiple Brunswick County residents and environmental advocates raised concerns about the proposed zoning district, and the planning board voted unanimously to continue consideration of the amendment to their March 22 meeting.

At that meeting, town staff will ask the planning board to make a recommendation on the amendment, according to And

Following a recommendation from the planning board, the amendment will go before the Leland Town Council for a public hearing and a final vote.

The town of Leland has received a petition for annexation from the Battleship Point developers, according to Andrea.

Reporter Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or edill@gannett.com.

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Q&A: As Cape Fear River west bank developers eye Leland, here’s how annexation would work – StarNewsOnline.com

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