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Wilmington has set new development standards for the next several decades

Harbeck's townhomes
Kelly Kenoyer
/
WHQR
Glenn Harbeck stands in front of the first townhomes to ever be built in Wilmington. They were constructed between 1912 and 1917.

Wilmington City Council has passed a new Land Use Development Code after months of feedback from citizens. The codes will determine how the city grows and changes for decades to come.

The new Land Use Development Code sets up numerous “commercial nodes” throughout the city. Those newly defined areas are an attempt to create walkable neighborhoods by adding denser housing near major commercial and job centers, like the hospital. And commercial zones with a lot of empty parking spots will be allowed to do infill development to make better use of the space.

And in the historic downtown, the new LDC allows for more missing middle housing types to get built, and with greater efficiency.

The LDC also incentivizes affordable housing in specific zones, like commercial mixed use. When a developer builds workforce housing on such a lot, they are able to build unlimited density- which should bring a lot more housing for lower-income people onto the market, according to city planners.

City Planning Director Glenn Harbeck set the tone for Tuesday’s discussion of the LDC, pointing out the positive attributes within- like protections for trees, and a streamlined approval process.

“Is the ordinance you are considering tonight, is it perfect? No. Can it be improved? Yes endlessly. But does it move the needle in the right direction in terms of our city and its future? I would offer a clear yes to that question," Harbeck said.

The code did receive a few late revisions between the last meeting about it in July and the vote on Tuesday. First, it ended off-street parking requirements for accessory dwelling units, which will make those small, backyard cottages much easier to build anywhere in the city. City planners hope that making it easier to build those homes on existing lots will make them more common, and will provide more varied housing throughout city neighborhoods.

And second, a staff-recommended end to minimum parking requirements has changed significantly. Now, certain businesses near residential properties will be required to perform a parking study.

That change came after criticism from Councilmember Kevin O-Grady, who was worried about business patrons parking in residential neighborhoods in areas like Market Street. But in large commercial zones that aren't close to residential areas, parking minimums have been removed, paving the way for infill development.

The new LDC passed unanimously through council after an hour of discussion. It comes into effect on December 1, and staff are keeping an eye out for glitches in the meantime that require correction.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.