By WECT Staff | October 5, 2020 at 5:51 AM EDT – Updated October 5 at 8:25 AM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The City of Wilmington could soon close a loophole developers have used to construct denser apartment complexes than what would typically be permitted through the use of commercial district mixed use zoning.
The commercial district mixed use (CDMU) zoning district was created in 2002 to encourage developers to created more mixed-use developments that included residential as well as commercial uses – however – things have not worked out the way planners had envisioned. Originally, the district was created to provide a mixture of commercial with some residential included, however, developers have continued to include only a ‘token’ amount of commercial buildings in their projects.
“The objective was to allow for the creation of balanced, mixed-use developments by placing office, commercial, and residential uses within a single development, thereby increasing convenience to residents and reducing the number of shopping and commuting trips needed. The objectives of promoting balanced mixed-use development, reducing traffic volumes on city streets, and promoting a higher quality of life are supported by the City’s Comprehensive Plan,” according to the City Council agenda.
While the idea was to help reduce traffic impacts, city staff says the lack of required commercial uses and no open space requirements in the CDMU districts have failed to achieve those objectives.
“Instead of commercial with some residential mixed in, many larger CDMU developments have essentially become intensive multifamily residential projects with a token amount of commercial use, no open space, heavy automobile dependence and the clear-cutting of sites to accommodate extensive impervious surface areas,” according to the staff report.
Earlier this year planning staff presented the proposed changes to the city’s Planning Commission and after some minor revisions, the Land Use Plan amendment is ready for City Council to vote on.
Planning Commission members ultimately approved the changes but not before making their own additions to the text, including allowing parking structures to count up to 50% of the commercial space requirement. The changes would also help incentivize developers to provide more workforce affordable housing in new developments as well.
“If approved, the amendment would establish standards for a minimum percentage of commercial use, as well as open space and parking standards scaled to the residential intensity of CDMU developments. Also included, is a provision to incentivize workforce housing in CDMU developments in exchange for unlimited residential development density,” according to the City Council agenda.
The proposed changes would include a number of amendments that would attempt to bring the CDMU zoning districts back to where it was originally planned.
Some of the changes include:
- Multiple-family housing and townhouse development shall be permitted. Detached dwelling units shall not be permitted
- Commercial uses assigned to the zoning district shall make up not less than 20% of the total building square footage of the development, except as may be reduced under paragraph
- For properties with less than or equal to 25% of their perimeter fronting on an arterial street, the minimum commercial building square footage of the development may be reduced to 10% of the total.
- Parking under a building or in a deck may be counted toward the minimum commercial building square footage, with the credit not to exceed 50% of the minimum commercial building square footage first determined under 1. above, if applicable.
- The building square footage of amenities that are commercial in nature (such as a spa or health club open and advertised to the public for a fee) may be counted toward the minimum commercial building square footage.
- In no case shall amenities for the exclusive use of residents, on-site leasing offices, or other nonresidential uses not otherwise open to the general public, count towards the minimum commercial building square footage.
- CDMU’s shall have a base density cap of 17 residential units per acre. 2
- There shall be no cap on residential density if 10% of the total number of residential units are designated for workforce housing, as defined under HUD’s High HOME rent census data, for a period of not less than 10 years
You can view the entire agenda item below, City Council is scheduled to vote on the amendments on Tuesday.
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