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What is the status of New Hanover’s proposed ‘exceptional design zoning district’?

Ashley Withers

‘Walkability’ is key to exceptional design zoning. Photos.com

Q. In the answer to the question, “Why are there virtually no sidewalks in Wilmington or New Hanover County?” posted in August 2009, “O’Keefe said the county is working to address [the lack of walk-ability] in the new, exceptional design planning district it plans to put before the county commissioners in the near future.” What is the status of this plan? What district was designated, and what steps has the county taken to implement the plan?

A. The exceptional design zoning district was adopted by the board of commissioners in April 2010 and was amended at the most recent meeting on Nov. 13.

The amendment changed the wording in the county’s zoning ordinance to clear up the “walkability” specification of the EDZD.

“We wanted to clarify what it means to be able to walk from one place to another. It can’t just be walkable, you have to have a safe way to walk there,” said Chris O’Keefe, the county planning director.

The exceptional design zoning districts can be located throughout the county, but O’Keefe said approval requires a “smart location.” It must be near shopping, jobs and transit.

“We want to create communities,” O’Keefe said.

No projects falling under the exceptional design zoning district have been built at this time. Only one project, Middle Sound Village, has been approved for the rezoning so far. The location of this project would allow residents to walk to Ogden Elementary, which was one of the main reasons it was approved, according to O’Keefe.

O’Keefe said the county has tried to encourage developments to try to be rezoned as an EDZD by putting in “incentives” for those that meet the specifications. He said developers can accrue credits to allow them to build high-density developments if they can satisfy the walkability requirements and other stipulations.


Why are there virtually no sidewalks in Wilmington or New Hanover County?

Wilmington enacted an ordinance regarding the number of non-related people occupying a house. Does New Hanover County have a similar ordinance?

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