New brick streets policy to go before city’s Historic Preservation Commission is your source for free news and information in the Wilmington area.

4th Street between Market and Dock in downtown Wilmington is part brick, part asphalt.
Part brick, part asphalt: 4th Street between Market and Dock in downtown Wilmington.

An updated and revised policy on the maintenance of Wilmington’s brick streets will be brought before the city’s Historic Preservation Commission Thursday night.

City staff has been working for months on the guidelines, gathering input from different departments, utility companies and invested groups as well as the public through an online survey and two public meetings.

According to Public Services Director Dave Mayes, who drafted the new policy, the last brick streets policy was adopted in 1987. That policy, however, was not comprehensive as it applied only to brick streets in historic districts.

“This policy is expanded to deal with a brick street, regardless of where it is,” Mayes said.

The changes are necessary as the city figures out how best to deal with brick streets that provide historic charm to many areas but are also aging. Some bricks are between 80-100 years old, which presents an issue when at times those streets have to be dug up to perform repairs on utilities that may have been buried for the same length of time.

“We don’t really have anything in place to deal with these streets for needs that arise. This policy is really intended to provide those guidelines and boundaries,” said Mayes, giving the example of utility repairs. “It’s not a matter of if we’re going to disrupt these streets, it’s a matter of when. It’s important that we have a mechanism in place to work with other utilities in town as well as our streets department.”

Mayes said the city looked at the streets block by block and came up with two categories with different sets of criteria for maintenance. The first includes streets that are brick from sidewalk to sidewalk (with maybe a little bit of concrete) and are being labeled “brick streets”. The second are brick streets that have had asphalt poured over them. Some of those streets have exposed brick where the asphalt has deteriorated, making the surface uneven.

“If it’s a brick street, whether it has historic bricks or modern bricks, and it has to be disturbed, you have to put it back no matter what,” Mayes said of the new policy’s rules. “If it’s partial, there are criteria to determine what would happen if it needs to be disturbed.”

The answers to three questions will determine how the partial streets are repaired, said Mayes. The first will look at how many cars travel on the street, and the second will take into account the street’s speed limit. According to Mayes, the city has set the maximum at 4,000 cars per day and a top speed limit of 25 miles per hour. The third question looks at the designation of the street, meaning whether the street is locally maintained.

“If any of the first two questions are exceeded, any disturbance will result in the entire street being paved over with asphalt, but we want to harvest and acquire all the bricks first,” Mayes said. “If it meets all three criteria – less than 4,000 cars, a speed limit 25 miles per hour or below, and locally maintained – then it will remain a brick street.”

The framework of the new policy was first presented before the Historic Preservation Commission at their May meeting, according to Mayes. He is going before them once again with the completed draft as part of the process to get it on the city council’s agenda in August.

“We had a positive meeting with them last time, and they indicated their support, so my hope is that we’ll have another good, positive meeting,” Mayes said. “We took some very deliberate steps to get it to where it is, and we hope that they’ll endorse it before we take it city council.”

Thursday night’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting is open to the public. It begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Lord Spencer Compton Conference Room on the first floor of Wilmington City Hall, located downtown at 102 N. 3rd St.