Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Redevelopment policy back on the table, city to reconsider weakening stormwater requirements

After being continued by the Planning Commission twice - once on the request of city staff, once because the Commission could not reach a consensus to vote - Wilmington will review its redevelopment code again on Tuesday. The changes in the code are designed to incentivize redevelopment projects by weakening stormwater requirements.

Land the city identified as potential areas for redevelopment in Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan in 2016. (Port City Daily graphic/Courtesy City of Wilmington)
Land the city identified as potential areas for redevelopment in Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan in 2016. (Port City Daily graphic/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — The city will reconsider a code amendment that is designed to weaken stormwater requirements for eligible redevelopment projects.

Though the amendment was initially presented to Wilmington’s Planning Commission in July, it has been continued twice. This time around, the changes appear to weaken existing requirements for eligible projects more than initially proposed.

RELATED: City to consider striking stormwater regulations to incentivize redevelopment

The changes

Designed to incentivize redevelopment, the proposed amendment applies to projects that plan to add 10,000 or more square feet of impervious surface area to a site. Impervious surfaces, like most roads, roofs, and sidewalks, do not allow stormwater to filter naturally through the ground.

When these surfaces exceed 10 percent of an area, water quality in surrounding streams and lakes is negatively impacted, according to the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan. As of 2016, about 28 percent of Wilmington’s total surface area is covered by impervious surfaces.

When a redevelopment project proposes to add 10,000 or more square feet, the proposed amendment would change the following:

  • Strike the requirement for developers to bring their project into full compliance when new impervious surfaces – including redeveloped surfaces where impervious surfaces already existed – are proposed to be added to 50 or more percent of the total site.
  • Strike the requirement for redevelopment projects to fully treat water quality volume. Instead, the projects would be required to provide 50 percent of the water quality treatment volume required for all newly constructed impervious surface area, not covered by a roof.

Since the amendment was first proposed in July, changes to Section 18-760 (c) – the latter strikeout – have been made more drastic. In other words, eligible redevelopment projects will be held to weaker stormwater requirement standards than they are now.

Introduced in 2009 to benefit water quality, Wilmington’s senior planner Christine Hughes said the amendments have had unintended challenges. Though the city wishes to incentivize redevelopment, it has done the opposite with the code in question, Hughes said.

Wilmington’s plan review engineer, Rob Gordon, told the Commission in July that developers saw the city’s 50 percent new impervious surface area requirement as a barrier.

“It became cumbersome,” Gordon said. “It didn’t achieve the intended outcome.”

By eliminating the 50-percent threshold requirement, only the redeveloped portion of the site and not a full site would have to come into compliance, the city’s revised staff report states. 

Mixed feedback

When Hughes first presented the changes in July, she received mixed feedback.

All public speakers raised concerns, citing how code changes would grant leniency to developers and could strain nearby waterways.

However, Richard Collier, the Commission’s vice chairman, indicated the proposed changes didn’t have enough teeth. Collier said the changes wouldn’t incentivize developers enough and that he wouldn’t vote on it without reviewing an accompanying stormwater redevelopment policy.

“We need to be able to incentivize theses folks to redevelop these sites,” Collier said. “I think we need to try something different.” 

On Wednesday, Planning Commission will hear the redevelopment amendment for the third time. Though a stormwater redevelopment policy was initially planned to accompany the amendment, Hughes said it’s no longer associated with the changes.

The Planning Commsion meets Wednesday, September 5, in City Hall at 6 p.m.

Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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