Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Get to know Wilmington’s Planning Commission, the board steering the city’s development

Most people know who their City Council members are, but the Wilmington Planning Commission is a lesser known board responsible for offering opinions on developments to City Council.

WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington’s City Council is typically the last stop before any new development project is approved or denied. But before council makes any sort of vote, other boards and committees have already laid eyes on the plans and sometimes even cast their own votes on the projects.

One such entity is the City of Wilmington’s Planning Commission, a board made up of seven appointed individuals who are tasked with initial oversight on rezoning requests, developing policies, and other planning measures.

The official purpose of the Planning Commission, as defined by the city itself is:

“…To prepare studies of the area within the jurisdiction and surrounding areas, determine objectives to be sought in the development of the study area; prepare and adopt plans for achieving these objectives; develop and recommend policies, ordinances, administrative procedures, and other means for carrying out plans in a coordinated and efficient manner; advise the Council concerning the use and amendment of means for carrying out plans; exercise any functions in the administration and enforcement of various means for carrying out plans that the Council might direct; and perform any other related duties that Council may direct.”

Over the past year the Wilmington Planning Commission has heard a total of 50 different cases, half of which were conditional district rezonings — projects like CenterPoint and The Avenue. Of these 25 rezoning requests, only three were recommended for denial.

Just because the Planning Commission votes in favor of a project does not mean it will get approved by City Council. But past history shows that the vast majority of projects that get the green light from Planning Commission will get similar favor from City Council. In fact, 91-percent of the projects given approval by the planning board also go approval from City Council.

Who are the board members?

So who exactly are these appointed officials who effectively steer the future of Wilmington’s developments?

Well, for starters most of the members have some professional background in real estate and development, from selling properties to designing them.

Planning Commission members serve in three-year terms and are appointed solely by City Council; members do not need to worry about reelection, simply, reappointment.

Current members include:

Deb Hays serves as the Planning Commission Chair, when she is not serving in that capacity she is a real estate agent and prior President of the Wilmington Regional Association of Realtors.

Richard Collier serves as the Planning Commission Vice Chair and in a professional capacity as regional manager at McKim and Creed — an engineering company and planning company. In Wilmington, McKim and Creed projects include Centerpoint, the Airlie Road development, River Place in downtown Wilmington, Riverlights, UNCW Seahawk Crossing, River Road realignment project, and NHRMC Heart Center. Collier previously served for seven years on the New Hanover County Planning Board and is going on his second term on the Wilmington Planning Commission.

Jeff Hovis is a Planning Commission member and in his professional life is also a real estate agent for Intracoastal Realty.

JC Lyle, a Planning Commission member is professionally the executive director of the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry and former senior land designer for McKim and Creed.

Bruce Bowman is an architect for Bowman Murray Hemingway, a company with a history of development projects in the region including CenterPoint, Brunswick Forest, UNCW Recreation Center, and the Althea Gibson Tennis Complex at Empie Park.

Kemp Roberts has a degree in construction management and has a history with construction, real estate, and finance.

Candy Cortes is a recently appointed member who is self-employed as a consultant who performs duties such as financial analysis and portfolio management.

Term expiration dates

Planning commissioners are appointed at different times, typically in the fall for those who are interested in applying for a spot on the board, there are two seats coming available in 2019. Applications for board and commissions can be found online.

Bruce Bowman – Term expires – 9/21/2019
Richard Collier   – Term Expires – 9/21/2020
Deb Hays  Term Expires – 9/21/2019
Jeff Hovis  Term Expires – 9/21/2020
Candy Cortes  Term Expires – 8/1/2021
Jeannie Lyle  Term Expires – 8/1/202l
Kemp Roberts     Term Expires – 9/21/2019


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