City council approves reforestation, red light cameras

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Efforts made by the Historic Wilmington Foundation, City of Wilmington Tree Commission, the Carolina Place/Ardmore Neighborhood Association, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the city of Wilmington to ensure the longevity of the Market Street live oak canopy have taken root. At city councilís meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, council unanimously approved the submitted reforestation plan for the project. Recently, the city has been made aware of the declining state of some of the live oaks that comprise the natural canopy along the Market Street Mansions District and, in an effort to preserve the canopy for future generations, the partners in the project will be planting new high rise live oaks that will one day take the place of the older trees.

City council also approved extending the contract with American Traffic Solutions to maintain the various red light cameras around the city. Wilmington division manager of traffic engineering, Don Bennett, said accidents at these intersections have decreased by 50 to 60 percent since the cameras have been installed. Lauding the success of the program, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo pointed out that 90 percent of the funds from citation fees are given to the New Hanover County School Board. Last year, that amount totaled $790,000, Bennett said.

In a resolution submitted by the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, a resolution banning the operation of twin trailer trucks in the stretch of Market Street from its intersection with Military Cutoff Road to the John J. Burney Jr. Freeway (US-17) was passed with a vote of 6 - 1 by city council. Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the WMPO, cited chronic, extreme traffic congestion and crash rates in the area in proposing this resolution, also adding that the NCDOT was considering designating the Wilmington Bypass for the operation of these vehicles. Councilman Charlie Rivenbark was the lone dissenting vote.

In its third appearance before Wilmington City Council, an ordinance was passed amending the chapter of the Cityís Land Development Code pertaining to detached accessory apartments. The ordinance allows for accessory apartments not yet built not to exceed 35 percent of the heated square footage of the primary structure on the lot, or 1,200 square feet, whichever is less. This amendment reflects an increase from the 800-square-foot maximum for apartments added to garages constructed prior to 2008, which was previously the rule. After the applicant for the ordinance, architect David Lisle, submitted his request for this amendment, city staff attached an accompanying amendment to the ordinance that allowed for property owners to construct accessory apartments on top of existing garages that matched the square footage of the garage, up to 1,200 square feet. The fact that this amendment would allow a property owner with a 1,200-square-foot garage to build an additional 1,200-square-foot accessory apartment above it caused councilwoman Laura Padgett, among others, to have serious concerns.

"Adding 1,200 square feet to a 1,200-square-foot garage is a big addition; 2,400 square feet is another home," Padgett said. "We cannot forget about the neighbors in this situation."

After much debate among the board, the additional amendment was not approved, but the amendment relating to structures not yet built was passed.

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