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Suburban Sprawl and Wildwood; What the Numbers Say


The 1995 incorporation of the City of Wildwood was in large part intended to be a check against suburban sprawl.

Commitment to parks, trails and the preservation of watersheds, creeks and trees is one of the founding principles of Wildwood. Even the city's charter spells out a commitment to the environment and places zoning as the most sacrosanct duty of its elected officials.

SHOCKING DEVELOPMENT

Recent building projects have caused some residents to question the city's commitment to low density zoning. In particular, the Villages at Bright Leaf subdivision project has been concerning for some residents. Visible from route 100, the loss of trees to higher density housing has been a shock to the sensibilities of some residents who value Wildwood's original vision. But many don't know that the project was approved years prior during the Mayor Woerther administration, and approval of high density projects have slowed to a veritable trickle since the end of his tenure as mayor.

AS WOERTHER LEGACY PROJECTS COME TO COMPLETION; A TREND TOWARDS LOW DENSITY BUILDING EMERGES UNDER NEW LEADERSHIP

Data shows a dramatic turn toward both less and lower density residential building under Wildwood's current mayor, Jim Bowlin. This may seem counterintuitive for some, but it takes time for developments to wend through a cycle of planning, approval and final construction. The high density projects being built today were approved years ago under then Mayor Woerther, including the Villages of Bright Leaf project.

(City Image: Former Mayor, and Current Ward 7 Councilman Tim Woerther- Bright Leaf and six other subdivision projects were approved during Woerther's tenure as Wildwood's Mayor)

According to city data, during the last four years of former Mayor Woerther's administration, a total of seven neighborhood projects and 359 homes were approved, including the Villages of Bright Leaf project.

By comparison, during Mayor Bowlin's four years of service, only one small "subdivision" and a total of merely five detached residences were authorized.

By any metric, including the number of acres rezoned, it is clear that the surge of development, which was authorized under Mayor Woerther, is followed by a more conservative approach to zoning under Mayor Bowlin. As with rain and a crest in floodwaters, it may take a bit of time, but if the current approach to zoning is upheld, development in Wildwood will become less dense and consequentially more in line with many residents' expectations.

Chart Based on City of Wildwood Data: provided to WWM by Mayor Bowlin

Note "former Mayor" indicates Mayor Woerther

Mayor Bowlin seems committed to the low density trajectory and he told Wildwood Matters that, "we should limit developments to those that our residents want." Mayor Bowlin emphasized, "It starts with listening to them, and they have said they want larger lots outside of the central Town Center area."

And as residents wait for the Woerther development pipeline bulge to be absorbed, the zoning of Town Center is being revisited as per the requirements of the City Charter.

And with the exception of Ward Eight Councilman, Niles Stephens who suggested along with a small alteration of the boundaries of Town Center, "to intensify [you know] the development" therein, the committee seems to be leaning towards a proposal to reduce the density of building, rather than increasing it.

Paid for By Steve Taylor