Land Development Code

City Council & Planning Commission Work Session
June 17, 2021, 8:30am-noon
Wilmington Convention Center, 10 Convention Center Drive, Wilmington

City Council & Planning Commission Work Session and Public Hearing
June 24, 2021, 8:30am-noon
Cape Fear Community College - Union Station, 520 N. Front St., Wilmington


For the first time in four decades, the City of Wilmington is rewriting its Land Development Code (LDC), which will shape the city’s future physical development. Built upon a multi-year foundation of grassroots engagement, this new code will help tomorrow’s Wilmington reflect the community’s preferences and hopes for the future. Wilmington City Council will vote on the proposed code later this year.

The LDC includes four major components:

  1. Zoning (the allowable uses and structures for a lot)
  2. Subdivision of land
  3. Standards for design and building requirements
  4. Sign regulations

Over time, these work together to shape patterns of development and re-development, which allows the city to address major long-term problems and realize a vision for the future.

Created from community input

The city began the process of rewriting its LDC eight years ago by asking residents to help city staff develop the Create Wilmington Comprehensive Plan. More than 4000 residents participated in that opportunity, expressing desires to improve traffic conditions, make the city more walkable and bike friendly, protect and grow the city’s tree canopy, preserve Wilmington’s identity as a historic coastal community, while also developing and elevating our parks, public spaces, and the services and recreational offerings available to the community.

A new code for today’s new challenges

The city’s current Land Development Code is based on development patterns and building practices that were common in the 1980s. Today, Wilmington faces a different set of challenges than in the 80s, including the need to re-develop vacant and underutilized properties within the city. The proposed code responds to these new and emerging needs with strategies to improve traffic conditions preserve and grow the city’s tree canopy, better manage stormwater, and develop a more convenient, compact, and connected future city with a smarter approach to land use. Here's how that could happen

  • Reduce sprawl by encouraging the re-development of vacant or underutilized properties in the city. This helps to reduce long travel times on major roads and improves access and convenience for nearby neighborhoods.
  • Locate residential housing closer to retail, restaurants, other services and offices. This lessens the need to drive major corridors, which relieves traffic congestion and makes the community more convenient, walkable and bike friendly.
  • Make tree replacement and tree preservation a priority in order to grow Wilmington’s urban tree canopy.
  • Encourage the on-site management of stormwater runoff and structured parking instead of expansive surface parking along major roads. This reduces the amount of runoff and flooding on surrounding roads and properties, and also enhances the appearance of major roads.
  • Locate buildings closer to the street to create a sense of place and make the community more walkable and connected.

Beautiful and functional corridors create a sense of place

“People judge a city by the appearance and function of its major streets,” explains Planning Director Glenn Harbeck. Looking toward future development that re-invests and re-uses vacant and underutilized properties within the city, the new Land Development Code aims to beautify and enhance the city’s major gateways and corridors, creating a stronger sense of place and convenience for residents. Future development would integrate residential, retail, and work spaces to increase convenience and reduce travel times. Placing storefronts rather than parking fields along the road, and developing sidewalks, medians, and pedestrian crosswalks, creates a more walkable and connected city. The code also seeks to better integrate affordable housing options throughout the city. Here are some concrete examples of how it would do that: 

  • Parking is located behind rather than in front of buildings, creating more walkable and convenient storefronts.
  • Large sidewalks make the city more walkable.
  • Streets can integrate bicycle lanes, connecting to the city’s network of multi-use trails, and improving safety and traffic flow.
  • Locating retail, work, and residential options together enables shorter trips and reduces traffic demand on major roads.
  • Tree-lined streets, medians, and storefronts create a sense of place and elevate the appearance of the city’s major corridors.
  • Affordable housing options are integrated within and throughout the community.
  • An emphasis on tree preservation and tree replacement grows the city’s urban tree canopy.

    Draft Land Development Code released for public review and comment. Click here to see the draft.

    Interactive Zoning Map available for Inspection. Look up your property on the map here.

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  • Matthew Dula
    published this page in Blog 2021-06-14 12:25:02 -0400