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City discusses downtown Wilmington development regulations

READ MORE: City discusses downtown Wilmington development regulations
WILMINGTON -- What should downtown Wilmington look like as it continues to grow? Tuesday night business owners, developers and residents gathered at a public forum at City Hall to talk about development regulations. The current code puts limits on building heights and density if developers don't provide parking and amenities for public benefit. Tuesday night's meeting was an effort to change that. City leaders met with developers in hopes of finding common ground for future growth in Wilmington. Developer Gene Merritt said, "I'm frustrated, because I've tried so hard. I want Wilmington to be a city, not a town." Merritt is like many frustrated developers who want the current development regulations changed.
"I want Wilmington to be a city, not a town."
Developer Gene Merritt
The present code allows developers more height, if they provide amenities like parking, green-space and eco-friendly buildings. "Now it seems that we have all these rules and regulations that really do not encourage development but discourage it, and I wonder where that's coming from," Merritt said. Wilmington's Development Services Director Kaye Graybeal said she agrees that the current code needs to be revamped, but preserving Wilmington's historic business district is also important. Graybeal said, "Everyone feels they have a stake in the central business district. It's the heart of our city, so we want to make sure it grows in such a way that promotes quality development and maintaining the character of our central business district." The city wants to simplify existing regulations. They're proposing a new block-by-block height chart so that developers can know exactly how tall a building can be in designated areas. Developers bristle most at the idea of having to give up project density for amenities they feel the city should provide. Merritt said, "And what that is basically doing is creating a cop-out for the city in which they are getting someone else to pay for what they should be willing to pay for." City leaders will meet with developers again on March 25 to try to find a happy medium concerning future development in downtown Wilmington.

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Developers and City Council

Certainly, the developers are right to an extent. Zoning of land does harm property rights; limiting its potential uses and profitability. Most developers understood these limits when they purchased their land, even if they had high hopes of using their political connections to up-zone the land to higher density and increase the value of their investment through political influence rather than land value appreciation. Despite utopian pipedreams where urban dwellers ditch their cars, the reality is Wilmington's infrastructure can't handle the burden of the higher density development without adding alot more infrastructure. If developers want to pay for the roads and sewers to handle their mixed-use towers built to the heavens, then they should pay for the pipes and roads enhancements required by these projects. Instead, Wilmington's developers profit by infringing on my property rights: taxing my hard-earned money to subsidize their businesses by making me pay for infrastructure for them. Convention centers. And so on. Developers should have no restrictions on their property rights if they pay for all the costs the community bears as a result of their project. If they want subsidies, us taxpayers have a right to attach strings to the money we will have to spend to support the project.

New Regs, re-posted

(Sorry posted in wrong place earlier) I am in the same master's program at UNCW and was at the meeting last night, and I can't help but weigh in on this. I am also a devoted resident of downtown and have been working in the private sector real estate industry for 6+ years, so I think I can see the situation from all sides. I believe it's important to recognize the economic good developers have provided the City by their investment in downtown (notwithstanding the lack of affordable housing, which is a separate issue). Developers' concerns should be validated so that we can all work together. Some of these landowners have lived in Wilmington for decades, and the City can't revitalize itself on it's own. I do believe in and support the adopted plan and most aspects of the new regs (they are best practices - except for lower density), but I worry we are alienating the very same industry we need to fulfill the Vision 2020. Plus, it sounds like we all want the same thing (a greener, more prosperous and economically profitable city), but just disagree on how to get there... Can't we use this shared goal as a starting point for some common ground?

Density vs. Sprawl

While I'm usually the first to rip into this town's developers, they do have the right idea here. Greater density is better for the environment, traffic congestion and efficiency of services. Cities - especially dense urban areas - are simply more efficient than suburban sprawl. That's why our ancestors built them in the days before we could make 40-mile commutes in our cars. The problem in Wilmington, as always, will be whether the city fathers mess things up again. A well designed city center wouldn't even need massive parking decks, since it would have the infrastructure, services, jobs and mass transit to meet the needs of the residents. Building this requires time and effective planning, though, and good planning is in short supply around here.

Future downtown development

I agree. Developers only want to make the most off their investment & if it means changing the rules & regulations to accomodate them then they will push to have them changed. I've also witnessed the degredation of our coastline, pollution of our waterways, decrease of fisheries in our marsh & wetlands because wetlands are being filled in for development and ships channel widened & deepened for the port. Just look at Carolina Beach with the overgrowth of the ocean front and future high rise development that will continue to destroy our environment. Be prepared because the developers will most likely get their way because they'll convince Mayor Saffo that this is the only way to grow & increase economic development but it'll only increase what future generations will have to pay just to live.

Downtown developement

Mr. Merritt only sees the profit motive by advocating unrestrained developement. Greater density means greater profit especially when the tax payers are stuck with the infrastructure cost. Since the 90's when the politicians allowed 1/4 acre developement, we have seen the degradation of the coastal enviroment, water quality, road congestion, over crowded schools and the general " New Jerseyfication" of the Wilmington area. I say enough. At the very least our city should require downtown developers to provide parking for their structures. Height restrictions also would preserve the unique historic atomosphere we enjoy downtown.

I couldn't of said it any

I couldn't of said it any better myself.....

New regulations are more responsible

First of all this article is wrong in that the current regulations do not require developers to provide amenities for public benefit. The new regulations would require that and that is why they are better. I am currently in a Master's Program studying Urban and Regional Planning, and it is considered "best practice" and socially responsible for developers to have to pay a certain amount for the public good. The new regulations do not force developers to provide public amenities but rewards them for doing so, by allowing increased height and density and therefore increased profit. Wilmington's current development codes are extremely slack and that is why there are problems with stormwater runoff, water quality, and sprawl. If the developers in this town had any experience building in other, larger cities, then they would realize that they have had it too easy in the first place.

New Regs

I am in the same master's program at UNCW and was at the meeting last night, and I can't help but weigh in on this. I am also a 7yr resident of downtown and have been working in the private sector real estate industry for 6+ years, so I think I can see the situation from all sides. I believe it's important to recognize the economic good developers have provided the City by their investment in downtown (notwithstanding the lack of affordable housing, which is a separate issue). Developers' concerns should be validated so that we can all work together. Some of these landowners have lived in Wilmington for decades, and the City can't revitalize itself on it's own. I do believe in and support the adopted plan and most aspects of the new regs (they are best practices), but I worry we are alienating the very same industry we need to fulfill the Vision 2020.

Saw a bumper sticker...

Saw a bumper sticker the other day that said it pretty much the way I feel, "I DON'T CARE HOW YOU USED TO DO IT UP NORTH!"

DOWNTOWN

WHAT A RIDICULOUS BUMPER STICKER! THE NORTH MUST HAVE DONE SOMETHING RIGHT...THEY WON THE WAR. REMEMBER?

Only because the South was

Only because the South was out numbered. They had to bring everything they had up there to do it.

Outnumbered?

Manpower was not a key issue in the South's defeat. In fact, the outnumbered South was doing quite well for the first two years of the war, primarily due to superior military leadership and the equipment and weapons that were in-place prior to the secessions. Those weapons and that equipment eventually wore out, and replacements were hard to come by. Of far more importance than headcount was the inability to support the war logistically or financially over the long-term. You had a major industrial power waging war against a rural, agrarian society. Cotton and corn were no match for foundaries and factories. That handwriting was on the wall long before 1861. Had the Southern States simply left the Union and left it at that, Lincoln would have been powerless to do anything about it... ...but all it took was one goober with a mullet and Trans Am, drunk on Busch Light and half deaf from listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and .38 Special eight-tracks, to light a match, turn to his buddies in Charleston and say, "Hey, watch this...." That gave Lincoln the excuse he needed!

Goober With A Trans-Am?

Goober With A Trans-Am started the war of Northern Aggression? Not hardly. It was some guy named Vinnie Barbarino who was playing Bruce Springstein's Born To Run wide open over and over again. It was blaring from his rusted out AMC Pacer's cassette deck from ripped 6 x 9 Jensen speakers. This union auto worker clown turned ahem...Union Soldier, was dressed in a tank top with I Love Ellis Island on the front and his arm pit hair was sticking out like a bad 70's haircut. He made the bad mistake of letting out an unmuffled purposely loud belch in front of a nearby ladies garden club meeting. This didn't sit well with Goober. Vinnie and the whole Ft. Sumter crew fled, singing Born To Run (they did real well at that) at the top of their voice, while Goober was singing Gimmie Back My Bullets!

ha

hahahaha.

What does that bumber

What does that bumber sticker have to do with this article? You obviously missed the point.

Development at any cost?

I'd say that the bumper sticker says it all. Maybe you better go work on your reading comprehension and leave the really important comment space to those that have something valuable to contribute!