Protecting Eagles Island & Point Peter

The Historic Wilmington Foundation is dedicated to protecting the integrity of cultural resources on the western bank of the Cape Fear River and Northeast Cape Fear River.

PUBLIC COMMENTS DUE JUNE 28. SUBMIT YOURS NOW! The letter is prepped—you just have to send it! Give one minute to preserve the West Bank.

Two years ago, a broad coalition of nonprofit organizations, scientists, and advocates partnered to stop two short-sighted development projects on the West Bank: Battleship Point on Point Peter and Wilmington Hotel & Spa on Eagles Island.

Now, our coalition joins forces again to advocate for the inclusion of all of the western bank parcels into the Conservation place type as part of upcoming amendments to New Hanover County’s 2016 Comprehensive Plan. Since place types guide future rezoning decisions, the group believes this approach better preserves the historical integrity, cultural significance, and natural environment of the area, compared to creating a Downtown Riverfront place type as proposed by NHC planning staff. 

Click here to read their letter to Planning Director Rebekah Roth, and click here to submit your own! You can use their language, or make it your own. Either way, taking a moment to submit your public comment makes preservation possible.

Citing future burdens on public infrastructure, environmental concerns, and protecting cultural resources, the coalition consists of the following organizations (in alphabetical order): Alliance for Cape Fear Trees, Bellamy Mansion Museum, Cape Fear Audubon, Cape Fear River Watch, Cape Fear Sierra Club, Eagles Island Central Park Task Force, Historic Wilmington Foundation, League of Women Voters of the Lower Cape Fear, NC Coastal Federation, NC Gullah Geechee Greenway Blueway Heritage Trail, and NC NAACP.

Photo Credit: Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper

Irreplaceable Historic Resources

Development on the West Bank could block viewsheds of the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, one of two National Historic Landmarks in New Hanover County and the state’s memorial to 11,000 service personnel who gave the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. Other municipalities employ prescriptive zoning measures, such as height restrictions and setbacks, to protect viewsheds of cultural resources. Beyond concerns related to the viewshed, the development of Eagles Island and Point Peter would negatively affect flooding events at the battleship. Currently, the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial is completing a flood resilience project called “Living With Water,” which is supported by the National Center for Coastal and Ocean Science, among others.

Other cultural resources that warrant protections include the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor, which includes vital remnants of rice canals and other aspects of rice production that are crucial to preserving the heritage of the Gullah Geechee people.

Development would also disturb archeological resource 31NH597 (as recorded by the Office of State Archaeology). The area contains submerged historic resources, including vessels, docks, shipyards, and naval store production sites.

Economic Impact of Heritage Tourism

Conserving the natural and historical landscape of the western bank parcels will enhance heritage and ecotourism opportunities. Both forms of tourism boost the local economy while ensuring that our natural and cultural resources are protected for future generations. Notably, the USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial, a key historical attraction, is the #1 most popular site in Wilmington and 6th in the state, according to TripAdvisor. Preserving this area’s unique ecosystem promotes educational and recreational activities, drawing visitors interested in the natural beauty and ecological significance of the region. The proposed Eagles Island Central Park aligns with the Conservation scenario, driving tourism and public engagement.

2022 Advocacy

In February of 2022, KJF Development Group asked the Town of Leland to consider a voluntary annexation of Point Peter. Additionally, the KJF Development Group asked the Leland Planning Board to consider a text amendment for the Town of Leland’s Code of Ordinances to establish Riverfront Urban Mixed-Use District.

On March 17th, the Leland Town Council unanimously approved Resolution R-22-033, which directed the Leland Town Clerk to investigate a petition for the voluntary annexation of approximately 8.34-acres of Point Peter. This was largely an administrative procedure. On March 22nd, the Leland Planning Board voted 4-3 recommending the Leland Town Council establish a Riverfront Urban Mixed-Use District with a height restriction of 240 feet. Additionally, the Leland Planning Board voted 4-3 recommending that Leland Town Council zone Point Peter to Riverfront Urban Mixed-Use should the property be voluntarily annexed to the Town of Leland.

New Hanover County held a work session on the west bank of the Cape Fear River on March 31st at 2 PM. HWF released a statement following the work session, which stated: “The Historic Wilmington Foundation (HWF) shares the New Hanover County Commissioners’ concerns about the unintended consequences of urban development on Point Peter to surrounding properties, particularly the USS North Carolina and Wilmington National Register Historic District. Flooding, exacerbated by introduced, impervious surfaces on Point Peter must be carefully assessed before decisions are rendered about the rezoning of Point Peter. Scientific evidence presented during the work session indicated flooding may be exacerbated at Battleship Park and downtown Wilmington. A common refrain during the work session was ‘the water has to go somewhere.’ As a memorial to the over 11,000 North Carolinians who gave the ultimate sacrifice defending our nation during WWII, New Hanover County bears responsibility to preserve the Battleship’s setting and protect access to the historic site.”

The New Hanover County Commissioners directed planning staff to form several options for the rezoning of Point Peter and other western bank parcels. These options shall represent the spectrum of possibilities, from high-density development to conservation.