City council approves pigeon ban, extension of negotiations on Water Street development

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One of many unanimous 6-0 votes by Wilmington City Council at their April 19, 2016 meeting. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
One of many unanimous 6-0 votes by Wilmington City Council at their April 19, 2016 meeting. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

After the Wilmington City Council surprised the crowd Tuesday night by introducing and approving a resolution calling for the repeal of House Bill 2, which was not on the published agenda, they got back to work on the scheduled items.

Among them was the second reading of a ban on pigeon keeping within city limits. The city’s previous ordinance regarding livestock and poultry raising in the city did not specifically prohibit pigeons. Following the passage of the new ordinance Tuesday night, there can be no new instances of pigeon keeping in Wilmington.

Those who already own homing pigeons, however, will be grandfathered in. To the city’s knowledge, there are just two such hobbyists, but anyone who can prove they were raising the birds before Tuesday will be given the same privilege. Pigeon keepers have six months to officially register with the city in order to be exempt from the new law.

Councilman Charlie Rivenbark had asked for the issue to be continued from the previous council meeting to allow for any more potential pigeon keepers to come forward. The ordinance passed unanimously Tuesday night.

City council members also unanimously approved an ordinance appropriating $18,000 of federal forfeiture revenue for the purchase of 240 gun holsters for the Wilmington Police Department.

“These are the same holsters we carry presently and have security features in them so the firearms cannot be removed unless you defeat the security devices contained within them,” WPD Chief Ralph Evangelous said during his presentation to city council.

At their March 15 meeting, city council approved the police department’s request to exchange 240 Smith and Wesson handguns for Glock Generation 4 9 mm weapons. The new holsters will now fit with those weapons.

A resolution to extend the the evaluation period of the Water Street parking deck development also passed unanimously Tuesday night. It is the third extension to the memorandum of understanding between the city and East West Partners Management Company, the Chapel Hill-based company chosen by the city to develop the site. In January, city council approved a 90-day extension that ended on April 14.

“Progress has been slow but good with regard to the negotiations on this particular property,” said Deputy City Manager Tony Caudle. “Of particular difficulty has been the size of the site, the complexity of the development in terms of trying to fit it into the site, as well as all of the appended documents that must go with the [purchase and development agreement], including the garage parking agreement and a number of other issues associated with easements.”

Caudle said the two parties involved hope to have an agreement ready for a public hearing about midway through the latest 90-day extension, which will end on July 13. If the agreements and project plans pass muster, Caudle said demolition and construction on the site could begin in the fall.

Earlier in the meeting, a resolution on the creation of a joint city-county affordable and workforce housing committee was pulled out of the consent agenda and voted on separately. This was necessary due to changes made to the resolution by the New Hanover County Commissioners, who heard the item and voted on it on Monday.

City council previously approved a resolution in January for a 12-member ad-hoc committee tasked with compiling a report on best practices for how to address the growing issue in the region. County staff made changes to that resolution, adding two at-large members to the committee (one from each government entity) for a new total of 14 people and adding a funding cap on the effort of $20,000 from each party (the original city resolution made no mention of money).

However, at Monday’s meeting, county commissioners had reservations about appropriating the money and pulled it from the resolution. They also added a stipulation that a representative from the homebuilding industry be on the committee, which will have at least one member each from the banking, real estate and private development industries as well as a representative from a community organization and the Cape Fear Housing Coalition.

The resolution, as amended by county commissioners, was passed by City Council by a unanimous 6 – 0 vote. Councilman Neil Anderson was traveling for work and given an excused absence.

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