With three times more parking spaces than park space, Wilmington looks to revise parking requirements

Stores begin to open as the mall continues renovations.
Stores begin to open as the mall continues renovations.(WECT)
Updated: Nov. 2, 2020 at 12:19 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The City of Wilmington has roughly three times more parking spaces than it does green space, but changes could be coming to the city’s Land Development Code to prevent the trend from continuing.

On Monday morning, the Wilmington City Council heard a presentation on the results of a parking study conducted between 2019 and 2020. The study analyzed parking lots across the city at a number of different locations including grocery stores, restaurants, retail stores, and apartment complexes.

“There is about 2,076 acres of parking, which is about 3-square-miles in our city limits and we only have about 700-and-something of park space/open space ... we have three times more parking space than we do park space in our city,” Ron Satterfield, assistant planning director, said.

The City of Wilmington continues to work on updating its LDC, a massive project that is taking place in phases, and parking standards will be revised and presented to city council in mid-November, he said.

The results of the parking study showed that, for the most part, parking lots in Wilmington are not reaching capacity, in fact, the majority of parking lots studied did not average more than 50 percent capacity.

There are, of course, exceptions to this. Olive Garden did reach 100 percent capacity on weekends and averaged 81 percent capacity during the week and 77 percent capacity on weekends; Chick-fil-A, on the other hand, reached a high of 92 percent on the weekend and averaged 45 percent and 47 percent on weekdays and weekends, respectively.

Note: Most of the study was performed in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Only Lowe’s and Home Depot parking trends were studied in 2020.

Most of the parking study was performed in 2019 prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the parking study was performed in 2019 prior to the coronavirus pandemic.(City of Wilmington)

Each parking lot in the study was observed over a total of six hours during different parts of the day on both weekends and weekdays, Associate Planner Megan Upchurch said.

Restaurants were not the only parking lots studied, the city also looked at Lowe’s and Home Depot as well as multiple apartment complexes in Wilmington and the results were similar, businesses and developers are putting in significantly more parking spaces than what is being used.

City staff is suggesting removing minimum parking standards for all uses except some residential, Satterfield said, and modifying the maximum number of spaces for different uses.

Parking is an important part of developments, especially when it comes to retail stores and city council members expressed at least some concerns with lowering the maximum number of allowed parking spaces since retailers often plan for busy seasons and maximums like Black Friday and Christmas shopping.

City Council will be presented with the proposed changes in about two weeks, Satterfield said.

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