Land rezoning can be a balancing act between a project’s design and competing political interests. In a recent Wilmington case, the Planning Commission denied a request to allow office and institutional use in a residential district. But as WHQR reports, things got complicated when the police intervened.
Developer Matt Scharf wanted to build 78 residential units. The project would also include some commercial and office space – planned for a 4-acre site near Martin Luther King Junior Parkway. At the end of the October Planning Commission meeting, a spokesperson for the Wilmington Police Department told Commissioners they opposed the conditional rezoning. Their objection: the possibility of increased demands on police in the neighborhood. The reason: the existing call volumes from nearby Cypress Cove apartments.
Scharf, who has developed land in the City for 16 years, says the involvement of the police was unusual:
"I’ve never heard of it, and actually I got phone calls from other developers that said the same thing, and again, their comments were, we didn’t realize that police get to decide what’s built. I mean that’s not the way it’s supposed to work."
But Planning Commission Chair Richard Collier says many City departments weigh in on development decisions:
"It’s not uncommon for the Police Department to provide us information on how they feel on a particular project or what types of impact a particular project may have [...]. Everyone in the City’s Departments are providing information to us, not only the Police Department, Fire Department does the same thing, City Attorney’s Office, the Planning Staff, the Engineering Staff. We hear from all them, and then we are making sure that things are done within the City’s guidelines."
While Scharf says he’s great with the outcome, he says the police clearly had a say in the project. Now, he says, he might build what’s allowed by right – up to 26 single-family homes with 26 accessory apartments.