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.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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