Saturday, December 9, 2023

Property owner requests rezoning after business deemed ‘illegal’ by City of Wilmington

An automotive repair shop sits on the property located at 223 South Kerr Ave., a use that has been deemed illegal by the city (Port City Daily photo/MICHAEL PRAATS)
An automotive repair shop sits on the property located at 223 South Kerr Ave., a use that has been deemed illegal by the city (Port City Daily photo / MICHAEL PRAATS)

WILMINGTON — In May 2017, the City of Wilmington notified an auto repair shop that it was operating an illegal business due to current zoning regulations. Now, the owner of the property is requesting the city change the zoning of his property to allow the business to continue.

After hearing from the property owner in September, the City of Wilmington Planning Commission voted to continue the issue until the first meeting in November.

The Planning Commission will now have to decide on a rezoning request for the shop located at 223 South Kerr Ave. to change the current zoning from regional business district to commercial services district.

Nicholas Habash, owner of the property currently rents the space to the auto repair shop. He said that, with the road work taking place on Kerr Avenue and the additional housing in the vicinity of the property, there has been an increased demand for commercial services. Habash said the current tenant has been operating for two-and-a-half years as the repair shop, and business has been picking up.

“It would benefit the people to have something that is more comprehensive, and as I see it is nothing out the bounds of mixed-use zoning that Wilmington is trying to strive for,” Habash said.

Before Habash bought the property, it was for on the market for approximately five years he said. Before then it was another automotive service shop. Associate Planner Eryn Moller said that in the regional business zoning district, automotive service shops that do not perform repairs are permitted.

According to the city’s Planning Department, the business was allowed to operate in compliance with the RB Zoning District regulations. At some point, the business transitioned into more of an automobile repair shop, which is not allowed in the RB.

“The property is zoned RB which allows for many automotive services such as a Transmission shop, Brake Shop, Tires, Alignment, Fluid services but does not allow for Automotive Repair. As you can deduce from this, it can be quite confusing with a lot of grey areas. And how do you tell a customer that you can do one thing and not another,” Habash said.

The business/property owner was sent a notice of violation in early 2017.

City of Wilmington staff is recommending the denial of the request, stating it is not consistent with the city’s Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan.

“The proposed rezoning would allow light industrial, commercial service and repair, and distributive business type uses, which are supportive of light industrial and intense commercial activity in an area better suited for high-density residential and complimentary commercial uses supportive of nearby residential areas. The proposed uses are more likely to be disruptive to the surrounding area and nearby residential uses than to complement them,” according to the case summary.

The item is scheduled to go before the City Council in January 2018.

Michael Praats can be reached at

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