City to consider expanding urban mixed zoning

Star-News (Wilmington, NC), 2014-08-18


Aug. 18 -- The Wilmington City Council will soon consider expanding a zoning district designed to encourage redevelopment.

City planners want the recently launched urban mixed use zoning district, which is already used in the older part of the city, to be available to larger tracts of land citywide.

If approved as written, landowners could seek an urban mixed use (UMX) zoning for parcels 5 acres and greater. Each site would require a mix of uses, including both residential and non-residential uses, said Christine Hughes , a senior city planner.

If the city council approves the new rules, a property owner would still have to request a rezoning under the city's process, Hughes said.

"We have a lot of property that is really well-suited to be redeveloped in Wilmington ," she said. Planners identified 84 sites in the city that are at least 5 acres and could be ripe for redevelopment under the new UMX district.

One example is the former Galleria property at 6800 Wrightsville Ave. On Aug. 19 , when the city council will consider the UMX expansion, the council will also consider assigning UMX zoning for the Galleria site. The 12.64-acre tract was formerly within the Wrightsville Beach town limits. Both municipalities signed-off on a deal for the land to become part of Wilmington and the state approved the change.

Creating a mix of uses on that property is an example of a type of redevelopment the city wants to support, said Glenn Harbeck , Wilmington's planning director.

"We're trying to introduce this type of mixed-use development in a suburban context," he said. The mix of uses can result in fewer trips by car, with people walking or biking to nearby shopping or restaurants, he said.

The city already has a mixed-use zoning district. The Mayfaire shopping area is a prime example of those regulations on the ground, Hughes said. She described it as a "suburban flavor" in that it requires a lot of parking. On the other hand, downtown Wilmington's central business district is a "dense urban flavor," she said, in that it does not require parking.

The UMX district is designed as a middle ground designed to give developers flexibility, she said.

Mayor Bill Saffo is in favor of expanding the UMX district.

Saffo said it is a forward-looking change that understands how the city will be developed in the next 20 to 30 years.

"I think it only makes sense because of the type of development that is happening now in the city, which is more urban in nature," the mayor said.

The city created the urban mixed use zoning district in 2013, in part, to encourage redevelopment. At the time, the city council also rezoned about 600 parcels in the older part of the city, also known as the 1945 city limits.

In March, one year after UMX zoning was adopted, property owners and real estate brokers said it is giving them more flexibility.

Julian March : 343-2099

On Twitter: @julian_march

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