New Hanover County officials will hold a pair of meetings in the coming weeks, as they attempt to finalize the revised Special Use Permit (SUP) requirements.
The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners recently voted to schedule a public hearing for Nov. 14 at 4 p.m., at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse to review the SUP text amendments. This follows the scheduled county planning board public hearing to be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 3 at the courthouse.
"After two-and-a-half discussion-filled and intense months, the planning board has a final draft of the Special Use Permit Requirements and four options for the Table of Permitted Uses before us for consideration at our Nov. 3 meeting,” planning board chairwoman Donna Girardot said.
“In attempting to meet the deadline set for us by the commissioners, we solicited input from the public, while working in concert with stakeholder groups and using as resource, materials such as the LSL Consultants' SUP, the N.C. Coastal Federation Model SUP and the county's previously drafted 2014 SUP. Throughout this whole process, our main objective and priority has been to produce a good product," Girardot said. "And I feel confident that we've done that."
The commissioners could vote on the SUP amendment at the Nov. 14 meeting, which means the current commissioners would be voting. Any new county commissioners elected on Nov. 8, will not be seated until Dec. 5.
Woody White, one of the county commissioners running for reelection, is hopeful for a more simple approach to the process.
“I do agree that making the process easier, more transparent and certain is attainable and will result in job creation and growth in our local economy,” White told the Greater Wilmington Business Journal in September. “It is not good enough for those that have moved here recently to expect this to be a retirement community with service and medical jobs as our only growth areas. We must have a vibrant manufacturing and industrial sector, while also doing what we can to grow our 'clean' jobs at the same time. It is not one over the other.”
Adam Jones, regional economist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, said he believes that an open, transparent process is not without risk.
“From my experience working in economic development, a lengthy, public and discretionary process will strongly increase the likelihood that large projects will remove us from their list of options, as early in the process they are looking for ways to narrow their lists,” Jones said. “Further, many companies place a large emphasis on being discrete in their search processes, which is not compatible with public hearings and input.
“My concern as a regional economist and resident is whether we can attract enough good paying jobs to make the Wilmington area a sustainable, balanced economy with an involved SUP process,” he added. “Reasonable people can differ on their estimation of how large an affect the SUP process has on the number of quality jobs attracted. Unfortunately, there isn’t much research on the topic to help us understand the magnitude of the effect.”
In 2011, county commissioners approved a special use permit ordinance that replaced an outdated 1969 policy. In 2014, amendments were proposed to the 2011 SUP to add more clarity to the application and permitting process. These amendments ultimately failed in a 2-2 vote by the county commissioners.
To learn where all the county commissioner candidates stand on the SUP revision process please see the Oct. 7 issue
of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
Both upcoming meetings are open to the public.