Aerial photo of Wilmington NC
Aerial photo of Wilmington NC
Aerial photo of Wilmington NC
Aerial photo of Wilmington NC

Land Development Code update

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What is the Land Development Code?

The Land Development Code (LDC) is a compilation of City regulations that control how land may be developed within Wilmington. The LDC includes:

  • Zoning. Regulations for development of uses and structures on a lot.
  • Subdivision of land. Regulations for the division of a parcel into smaller lots.
  • Standards for design.  Regulations for site aspects such as landscaping and parking.
  • Sign regulations. Regulations for the type, size, and placement of signs on private property. 

Why do we need to update our Land Development Code?

Updating our LDC is the next critical step in the implementation of the goals, objectives, and policies in our Comprehensive Plan that was developed through extensive input from our community. Wilmington’s LDC is based on development patterns and building practices that were common in the mid-to-late 1980s. Large parts of the LDC are outdated and difficult to use. The LDC hasn’t undergone a full update in 30 or more years. While the City amended its development regulations in late 2004, the code does not reflect recent policy direction or make use of many best practices of modern planning and zoning techniques. 

Like many prosperous, growing communities, Wilmington has experienced a considerable amount new development. Unfortunately, the City is operating with land use regulations originally written decades ago for a very different community that had abundant land available for development, minimal traffic congestion and a desire to minimize density through suburban growth. Today, Wilmington remains a highly desirable community and is essentially built-out. To accommodate the projected doubling of the region’s population by 2040, including an influx of 60,000 new residents within Wilmington, a different approach to development is needed. Infill and redevelopment are the new normal and land development regulations that have been patched and modified for years will no longer address the City’s needs.

The purpose of the LDC revision is to address these issues, resulting in a set of regulations that are user-friendly, modern, and in-line with the policy direction in the city’s comprehensive plan — a blueprint showing how the city should grow — which was adopted in March, 2016.

Next steps

The city began a two-phase, multi-year project to rewrite its LDC in 2015. The first step was an in-depth review of the existing code. The second phase, which began in 2016, is the development of the new LDC. To do this, we are drafting new ordinances, getting input from City Council/Planning Commission, and other stakeholder groups. In the fall of 2019, we will begin a comprehensive public input process with a completed draft of the new ordinances.

Key concepts

Staff regularly presents updates on key concepts of the LDC to Council.


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