Planning commission denies request for coffee shops in historic district

Planning commission denies request for coffee shops in historic district

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A request to change the city zoning and land use code that would have allowed coffee shops in the local historic district was denied by the Wilmington Planning Commission in a unanimous vote Wednesday night.

The vote came after a lengthy public hearing on the topic. Neighboring business owners and residents of the district spoke almost unilaterally in opposition to the idea.

Cindee Wolf of Design Solutions submitted the application for a change in the zoning language on March 29. Wolf's request focused on allowing coffee shops as a use, by special use permit, for properties that were already zoned for commercial use.

The language would have limited coffee shops to properties that front Market Street, and there could be no drive-up or drive-through windows, no additional curb cuts, no lighted signs and no outdoor music. Shops also would have been unable to prepare food on site, with the exception of reheating items.

Wolf said the request came out of the need for clarification for businesses such as coffee shops or ice cream parlors, which are "smaller use" than a traditional restaurant.

The amendment included adding the language of defining a coffee shop to the city's other zoning districts because not doing so would have rendered existing coffee shops in violation of the code.

In her presentation, Wolf said the request was to change the zoning code in general, not for the approval of a specific property. Any property that wanted to have a coffee shop would have had to go through the special use request process, which goes through the planning commission and the Wilmington City Council.

In the historic district, special uses must also go through the Historic Commission as well.

However, in the public hearing, several residents pointed to 616 Market Street as the most likely place a coffee shop would go because the property is vacant. Community members expressed concern over noise from customers, deliveries and trash removal as well as additional traffic on Market Street and adjoining residential streets.

Parking and buffers between residences and coffee shops were also mentioned as were concerns about the allowance of coffee roasting.

Multiple commissioners, including Chairwoman Deb Hays, said while they appreciate the need to further narrow uses and define things like coffee shops, all were concerned about allowing such a use in the Historic District.

Commissioners also directed staff to consider adding coffee shop language when the code goes through a re-write process.

There are multiple coffee shops already located in the central business district in downtown Wilmington.

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