Wilmington Land Development Code — A Few Things to Know

In April, the City of Wilmington formally unveiled the full version of the new Land Development Code. This new Code and zoning map, based on the City’s Comprehensive Plan, will guide investment in the City over the coming decades. Due to its importance, BASE and our partners have been working over the past year+ to provide feedback as the City drafted individual chapters of the Code. Thank you to all the members and partners who have participated in these sessions and volunteered your time and professional expertise providing feedback on the draft Code. It is anticipated the City will move forward with approval in the coming months.


Unfortunately, as our members have identified through their analysis of the proposal, the new Code has critical flaws. In short, the proposed land development code overhaul will prove detrimental to the City because as it will not facilitate future investment. The specifics of the ordinance will frustrate existing commercial investment while not making it easier to create infill development or provide affordable housing options.


Here are some specific areas of concern:

Article 2 Zoning Districts

  • We live in one of the most compact urban areas in North Carolina. Why are City zoning districts not consistent with New Hanover County?
  • The ordinance has continued reliance on conditional uses—is that consistent with 160D changes? Do conditional approvals streamline the process or give certainty to the outcome?
  • If we are encouraging infill commercial investment and development with mixes of uses, why change MF, CBD, UMX and MX (and do away with CDMU)? For example, no UMX is allowed outside 1945 corporate limits. Why the continued reference to an arbitrary line that is almost 100 years old?
  • What nonconformities will be created by making districts “legacy”?


Article 3 Environmental

  • The City is overstepping its authority in attempting to classify Bradley Creek as SA waters. Water classification is a state matter. Arbitrarily treating Bradley Creek as SA won’t make the oysters edible, but it will impact everything within a half mile and draining to a major watershed in the middle of the City.
  • The City is proposing to amend Conservation Resource Areas and associated setbacks to apply to primary nursery areas, 404 wetlands and coastal wetlands (none of which are actually regulated by the City)
  • Expanding tree regulations to include pond pines, etc without doing any sort of analysis of what trees/age of trees make up the City’s canopy or the significant investment in new trees by new development


Article 4 Site Development

  • The change of use standards should be clear and streamlined to foster new business growth and reuse of existing buildings.
  • SIGNIFICANT attention should be paid to the street frontage changes along all of the major roadways. The arbitrary new road classifications will impact renovation and expansion of existing businesses, as well as future investment.


Article 5 Subdivisions

There are a number of provisions in this section which will impact viability of projects—and end cost:

  • Mandatory locations of sidewalks, multi use paths
  • Requirement to clear streets to full ROW width
  • Open space a required public use
  • “…protect and retain” existing flora


If you live, work or invest in Wilmington, the proposed Land Development Code will impact you.

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