Friday, March 1, 2024

Coffee shops could soon be permitted in Wilmington’s Historic District

The application was submitted in March to allow for restaurants, but was withdrawn and resubmitted to specify coffee shops instead.

Coffee shops could be coming to Wilmington's Historic District (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Coffee shops could be coming to Wilmington’s Historic District. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WILMINGTON — Fast food restaurants can conjure images of long lines of cars wrapped around a building. But in Wilmington, the term fast food also refers to restaurants and stores that offer take-out food or drinks, which is why one applicant is hoping to amend city code to include a new type of use: coffee shops.

Originally submitted in March as a land development code amendment, Cindee Wolf on behalf of her client Patrick Block requested an amendment that would allow restaurants, fast-food, and carry out in the historic district. There were several requirements the amendment proposed including off-street parking, limited hours of operations, and no drive-up windows. But now it seems the request is more specific to only allow coffee shops, formally differentiating them from other fast food locations.

Related: Restaurants coming to Wilmington’s Historic District?

If the amendment is passed it would define coffee shops across the city code, not just in the historic district, but a special use permit would still be required in the historic district.

“This use would be permitted by special use permit in the HD, Historic District, and the HDMU, Historic District‐Mixed Use. ‘Coffee shop’ would be a use allowed by right in the following districts: MX, Mixed Use, O&I‐1, Office and Institutional 1, NB, Neighborhood Business, MSMU, Main Street Mixed Use, CB, Community Business, RB, Regional Business, CS, Commercial Services, LI, Light Industrial, IND, Industrial, AI, Airport Industrial, RFMU, River Front Mixed Use,” according to the application.

The historic district

Locations zoned historic mixed-use already allow for restaurants and carry-out services by special use permit, but these types of businesses are not allowed in the historic district.

According to Wilmington’s zoning maps, the area in question encompasses the area between Dock Street and Chestnut Street, and between North Third Street and North 7th Street. It includes buildings such as City Hall, New Hanover County’s Historic Courthouse and the Bellamy Mansion.

If approved, the amendment would also have several conditions for coffee shops including:

  • The location shall be limited to existing commercially‐used structures that front Market Street. For the purposes of this special use permit, a structure must have had an existing commercial use prior to the adoption of this ordinance. Government and institutional uses are excluded from the term “commercial.”
  • No new curb cuts shall be permitted from any arterial or collector street to provide access or off‐street parking requirements.
  • Drive‐up windows shall be prohibited. Exterior site lighting shall be installed so as not to shine directly onto adjacent parcels and shall be limited to full cutoff type fixtures.
  • Signs shall be non‐illuminated and not exceed four square feet in size.
  • Amplified sounds shall be prohibited outdoors.
  • Freestanding signs shall be prohibited.
  • Outdoor freezers/coolers shall be prohibited.
  • Delivery hours shall be restricted to the hours between 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • No more than 2,000 square feet gross floor area is permitted for this use.

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