G1: Wilmington voters to decide zone’s fate


Ballot referendum affects hundreds of properties

By Nathan Kraatz - nkraatz@civitasmedia.com



The above map shows those areas that would be affected by the G1 zoning ordinance. The residential zones are near the outer edge of the proposed G1 zone.


Does it protect homes?

For Stuckert, the zone would protect homes, rather than endanger them, as opponents have said.

Under current zoning regulations, he said historic homes were torn down before council members knew what was happening, making it impossible to intervene.

For instance, he said in many of the residential zones, a home could be torn down and replaced with as large an apartment as will fit on the parcel.

Under G1, he said, housing units are limited to two units, and, more importantly, a review process is added before any historic home can be torn down.

“The G1 prominently states the intent is to preserve the form of this area, so it’s going to be harder to justify rezoning G1 to a Family Dollar than R3,” Stuckert said. “There’s nothing in R3 that protects historic character.”

Stuckert said the majority of properties in the proposed G1 zone are historic.

“If we’re adding in language that new development needs to fit the character of this neighborhood by form, not just by use … the tone is that we want to protect these neighborhoods,” Stuckert said.

“A lot of what they fear G1 will do is exactly what it intends to address,” Stuckert said.

Holmes and the committee’s statement didn’t touch on home protections afforded by current zoning, but readers of the News Journal, submitting letters to the editor, have, including the committee’s treasurer, Stephen Sawzin.

“Instead of a house, a family, a neighbor next door, there could be a business and a parking lot,” Sawzin wrote in a October 14 guest column. “If a business opens in a G1-zoned property, there is no requirement to follow the requirements of the B zoning regulations.”

“Please don’t let city council take away our protections and allow almost any type of business with absolutely no restrictions on the hours of operation to come into our neighborhood and your city,” wrote Jeff and Angela Earley.

And Joyce Shunk and David Reeder, in separate letters, wrote that the “including but not limited to” language concerns them.

“I am the resident who inspired the Gateway District,” wrote Marcy Hawley. “I was dismayed when a house down the street from me was demolished and replaced by a large, illuminated Family Dollar sign. I was shocked to learn that the zoning protections I thought I had did not provide me or my neighbors any protection from this.”

Stuckert told the News Journal that the “including but not limited to” language exists in current zoning because it isn’t possible to list every possible use and because zoning regulations provide a zoning inspector with guidance.

“I understand the hesitation they have when they hear that businesses would be permitted,” Stuckert said. “We’re used to having zoning be focused solely on uses. … When your priority becomes protecting the fabric, the physical character of the neighborhood” that can protect the historic character without defining uses.

Stuckert said businesses like the Pattery and Kava Haus, as well as law firms, are commercial uses that protect the city’s historic character.

WILMINGTON — One of the more publicly debated items on the Nov. 3 ballot is the G1 Gateway zoning, an ordinance that would rezone more than 370 parcels of land in Wilmington.

Supporters of the ordinance argue that it protects Wilmington’s historic homes and the community’s historic fabric as well as preserving a good first impression on those entering the city.

Opponents argue that it doesn’t provide enough protection for homes, is government overreach and that the city should have provided better notice to those homeowners that are affected by the change.

Taylor Stuckert, executive director of the Clinton County Regional Planning Commission, said the ordinance began based on a citizen’s complaint and council’s desire to preserve historic neighborhoods.

“There was no review process” before a historic home was demolished, Stuckert said. “Council members didn’t know it was going on until it was too late. … We need to do more to protect people’s neighborhoods. These are the first impressions people have when they enter our city. They represent the historic character of our city.”

Stuckert said it’s only natural to update zoning as a community’s goals change.

“Your zoning should align with your vision, and the existing zoning in this area does not align with the vision of protecting neighborhoods,” Stuckert said.

Vince Holmes, a member of the Wilmington Citizens Referendum Committee, which has put up signs and mailed letters opposing the ordinance, submitted a prepared statement speaking against the G1 ordinance. It was signed by the committee.

Holmes and the committee wrote that they turned to the referendum process when their pleas fell upon “deaf” city council ears.

“The best argument against the ordinance is the ordinance itself,” the statement read. “It is one big power grab.”

The committee’s statement said many citizens have been unhappy upon reading the ordinance, which the committee mailed to thousands of registered voters — even “downright indignant.”

“This is a property rights issue,” said the committee’s statement. “We thought our names on the deeds made us the owners. The Mayor, City Council, the spokesperson for Clinton County Planning Commission and influential people evidently think they are part owners.”

Public awareness

One of the issues Holmes and the committee focused on in their statement was council’s notice to residents. The city, the statement read, only notified people of the change to their property’s zone through a classified ad in the News Journal.

“This is no small thing,” the statement said. “Zoning is precious. We had to make the public aware as the City failed miserably at notifying their intentions.”

The committee’s statement said council should have mailed notices to the affected parcel owners and their immediate neighbors.

“Those neighbors will be impacted as the yards adjoin,” Holmes said. “They too can suffer loss of property value and/or quality of life.”

Stuckert said news coverage of G1 notified many residents.

“To say the only notice given was a classified ad is really unfair,” he said, adding that it was on the front page of the News Journal multiple times, including several times that also featured the map of affected parcel owners.

The bottom line

Stuckert reiterated his belief that the ordinance, if approved by voters, will protect Wilmington’s historic homes and main entrances.

He said the CVS recently built downtown replaced a historic building that used to be a residence, was formerly a commercial club, housed dozens of businesses over the years and once was home to a dance studio.

Now, “CVS is probably the only user that would use that building.”

Large developments, like CVS, he said, limit future uses while small ones, like professional offices for lawyers, don’t and can even be converted back to a home.

“Buildings that are built with a user in mind, like a CVS or a grocery store, when they are abandoned, then we are left with a structure that is very hard to market, very hard to activate again,” Stuckert said. “That’s not good for our community, and these structures do not contribute to the unique identity of our community.”

Holmes and the committee said residents in the G1 zone are now dependent upon the “large, voting public” to decide if residents or the general public owns their properties “like three wolves and a sheep voting on what is for supper,” the statement read.

“In spite of the situation, we are encouraged, due to the response from many fellow citizens that they will not sit by and let this pass,” the statement continued. “Some are agitated and see this government overreach for what it truly is.”

Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/10/Ordinance-5218-G1-Gateway-zoning1.pdf

http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/10/web1_Election2015logo3.jpg

The above map shows those areas that would be affected by the G1 zoning ordinance. The residential zones are near the outer edge of the proposed G1 zone.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/10/web1_G1-map1.jpgThe above map shows those areas that would be affected by the G1 zoning ordinance. The residential zones are near the outer edge of the proposed G1 zone.
Ballot referendum affects hundreds of properties

By Nathan Kraatz

nkraatz@civitasmedia.com

Does it protect homes?

For Stuckert, the zone would protect homes, rather than endanger them, as opponents have said.

Under current zoning regulations, he said historic homes were torn down before council members knew what was happening, making it impossible to intervene.

For instance, he said in many of the residential zones, a home could be torn down and replaced with as large an apartment as will fit on the parcel.

Under G1, he said, housing units are limited to two units, and, more importantly, a review process is added before any historic home can be torn down.

“The G1 prominently states the intent is to preserve the form of this area, so it’s going to be harder to justify rezoning G1 to a Family Dollar than R3,” Stuckert said. “There’s nothing in R3 that protects historic character.”

Stuckert said the majority of properties in the proposed G1 zone are historic.

“If we’re adding in language that new development needs to fit the character of this neighborhood by form, not just by use … the tone is that we want to protect these neighborhoods,” Stuckert said.

“A lot of what they fear G1 will do is exactly what it intends to address,” Stuckert said.

Holmes and the committee’s statement didn’t touch on home protections afforded by current zoning, but readers of the News Journal, submitting letters to the editor, have, including the committee’s treasurer, Stephen Sawzin.

“Instead of a house, a family, a neighbor next door, there could be a business and a parking lot,” Sawzin wrote in a October 14 guest column. “If a business opens in a G1-zoned property, there is no requirement to follow the requirements of the B zoning regulations.”

“Please don’t let city council take away our protections and allow almost any type of business with absolutely no restrictions on the hours of operation to come into our neighborhood and your city,” wrote Jeff and Angela Earley.

And Joyce Shunk and David Reeder, in separate letters, wrote that the “including but not limited to” language concerns them.

“I am the resident who inspired the Gateway District,” wrote Marcy Hawley. “I was dismayed when a house down the street from me was demolished and replaced by a large, illuminated Family Dollar sign. I was shocked to learn that the zoning protections I thought I had did not provide me or my neighbors any protection from this.”

Stuckert told the News Journal that the “including but not limited to” language exists in current zoning because it isn’t possible to list every possible use and because zoning regulations provide a zoning inspector with guidance.

“I understand the hesitation they have when they hear that businesses would be permitted,” Stuckert said. “We’re used to having zoning be focused solely on uses. … When your priority becomes protecting the fabric, the physical character of the neighborhood” that can protect the historic character without defining uses.

Stuckert said businesses like the Pattery and Kava Haus, as well as law firms, are commercial uses that protect the city’s historic character.