WILMINGTON — After some discussion, Wilmington Council in a 5-2 vote passed the first of an expected three readings on an ordinance that would remove the G-1 Gateway zoning ordinance from city books .
Council members Joe Spicer and Lonnie Stuckert II voted against the first reading.
The ordinance, approved by council in 2014, was to be enacted last year by a map, but Wilmington voters rejected it when that map was put to them on the ballot. It aimed to change the zoning of properties in the city’s “gateway” areas, where people primarily enter the city.
President of Council Randy Riley said repealing the ordinance wouldn’t change anyone’s zoning.
Supporters of repealing the ordinance said residents concerned about Gateway zoning can’t trust an amended version of the zoning change. Instead, they suggested starting over.
“We think there’s been enough concern about this ordinance that we deem it necessary to repeal this and possibly start from scratch,” said council member Randi Milburn, chair of the judiciary committee that presented the ordinance.
“I’m fine with repealing this as long as we’re moving forward with something else,” said council and judiciary committee member Matt Purkey. “Giving us three readings, I think, will give us time to get that in place.”
“The letter ‘G’ and the number ‘1’ have too much power in this town,” Matt Purkey said. “Let’s get rid of it, let’s start from scratch.”
Council and judiciary committee member Kelsey Swindler, elected in November, said that while she campaigned, she would explain reasons why she favored Gateway zoning and found that residents cited the same reasons for opposing it.
“There’s this deep misunderstanding on both sides,” Swindler said. “After that judiciary committee meeting, it was pretty clear that the willingness to work together on that isn’t there. I’m sad about that. I think that speaks to the erosion of public trust. … If we can begin to work together, we have so much to do.”
Council member Mark McKay said Gateway zoning “rightly or wrongly” has a stigma attached to it.
“I just want us to move as quickly as we can towards some type of similar legislation in the future,” Mark McKay said.
Those opposed to repeal said they believe the decision was hasty and rash and that opposition to the zoning ordinance was misinformed.
“I think that this is a hasty decision,” said Stuckert. “I think there hasn’t been enough time to counteract the misinformation that’s been put out there. I think we’re moving too fast on this, and there should be more discussion to counteract the misinformation.”
Wilmington resident Mike Mandelstein said the voting results from November, where Gateway zoning was defeated by a 75-25 percent margin, suggest council isn’t moving forward fast enough.
Stuckert countered that decisions were made based on misinformation, and Mandelstein said misinformation and high passion ran on both sides.
“I’m willing to make it right, but we do still have a segment of the public that are really adamant about protecting historic structures,” Spicer said, adding that council should wait for an alternative before removing Gateway zoning.
“There was some misinformation,” Spicer said. “We didn’t mount a campaign to counteract them, either.”
Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth said, “Our zoning rules have kind of grown piecemeal over the years as the city has grown. Let’s just redo our zoning like we’re starting from scratch.”
Milburn said the committee will further discuss forming a task force to discuss zoning at future meetings that would do just that. She said that task force will contain officials and citizens.
While the map enacting Gateway zoning was defeated, it wasn’t clear whether a citizen might be able to get their own property rezoned into the ordinance itself.
Wilmington Safety and Service Director Brian Shidaker said if someone requested their parcel rezoned as a Gateway property, he would pass it along to the city’s planning commission. If the planning commission, which Riley said was “adamantly opposed” to that kind of “spot zoning,” approved the request and council didn’t overturn it, a Gateway zoning parcel would be grandfathered in to the city’s future zoning.
“In theory, it could be there,” Shidaker said.
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.