The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce reacted this week to an N.C. Coastal Federation campaign that seeks support for some proposed changes to New Hanover County’s special use permit.
In the form of what the federation has titled “a Model Industrial Special Use Permit,” the changes the federation agrees with were previously submitted to county officials.
But on Monday, the county released to the public a different set of potential changes to the SUP that were the result of a consultant’s recommendations. The zoning ordinance amendment request
was produced using the input of LSL Planning, the consulting company conducting New Hanover County’s Unified Development Ordinance update process. The amendment includes a color-coded key to show which of LSL’s suggestions the county staff supports and which they do not.
“The new version was made public on Monday afternoon, and Wilmington Chamber leadership is still reviewing that proposal to see if it accomplishes our goals for SUP revision,” said Mitch Lamm, chamber board chairman, in a news release. “The Chamber recommends that upcoming deliberations on this issue focus on the County staff’s new proposal. The North Carolina Coastal Federation’s campaign to build support for what they have dubbed the ‘model’ Special Use Permit (SUP) is not supported by the Wilmington Chamber.”
In 2015, the release said, the Coastal Federation created a community task force and hired a consultant to develop a revised version of the SUP.
“Once drafted by the Coastal Federation’s consultant, that proposal did not receive a majority of support from the members of the committee not employed by the Coastal Federation. The Coastal Federation proposal does not represent a community consensus on this issue and does not adequately address the business community’s concerns. Despite their lack of success in building consensus for their plan, the Coastal Federation has now launched an active campaign to promote their version,” Lamm said in the release.
The campaign Lamm was referring to, titled “My Community: My Voice,” kicked off Wednesday night
with an event in downtown Wilmington.
Mike Giles, the N.C. Coastal Federation's coastal advocate in the southeast region, said he thinks the SUP his organization is advocating does address the concerns held by the business community when it comes to the SUP's potential effect on economic development, including a clearly defined timeline, requirements and process.
“We still feel strongly that what everybody said the concern was about the 2011 SUP, our current SUP that the revised language we have submitted to the county ... fits the bill. It addresses all the issues. We feel like this version or a combination of the two is something that the county should look at real hard and to adopt,” Giles said Thursday.
Hal Kitchin, an attorney who has studied the SUP issue for the chamber, was a member of the task force created by the federation last year.
“There are narrow places where the Coastal Federation proposal may be more clear than the current ordinance but in those places, the Coastal Federation’s proposal tends to be clear and worse instead of clear and better. Clear and worse does not do anybody any good,” Kitchin said Thursday.
He said the “Model Industrial Special Use Permit” advocated by the “My Community: My Voice” campaign is “a thing of the past,” and the community task force, or project team, “was a valiant effort by well-intentioned people that failed. I was one of them. I was part of the failure. But it doesn’t change the fact that it failed. We were trying to reach consensus and we did not.”
Kitchin said the case could be made to wait until the new UDO is drafted to consider changing the SUP ordinance, but if officials feel like the changes should be made now, he believes they should focus on the most recent draft.
The New Hanover County Planning Board will hold a work session at 3 p.m. Aug. 30 in the Lucie Harrell Conference Room 601 at the New Hanover County Government Center, 230 Government Center Drive, on the zoning ordinance amendment released Monday. The issue could then be on the agenda for the Planning Board’s meeting Sept. 8.
In the meantime, the Coastal Federation’s campaign continues with TV, radio and billboard advertisements, running through the middle of September, Giles said.
The campaign also includes “outreach to citizens to learn about the issues, learn about what we’ve proposed to the county and talk to their county commissioners to urge them to adopt the model SUP that we’ve proposed,” Giles said.