The effort by the New Hanover County planning department to forge a new and improved special use permit (SUP) returns to the table next week, when the planning board hosts another work session from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 8, at the Government Center, 230 Government Center Drive.
“If they complete their work on Dec. 8, then the planning board will likely calendar the item for their regular January meeting,” said Chris O’Keefe, planning and land use director for the county, on Thursday.
These developments follow last month’s Nov. 14 commissioners
meeting in which an overflow crowd on hand for public comment on the SUP was sent home early, when the commissioners tabled the scheduled hearing.
On Nov. 15, the planning board also hosted a work session.
At issue are text amendments within the SUP ordinance, and also the contents of its Table of Permitted Uses (TOPU).
The SUP requires that some industries meet requirements before being allowed to open a business in New Hanover County. Business leaders don’t want an SUP that is too restrictive and discourages industry from locating here, while others contend that a strong SUP is needed to keep potentially polluting industries from damaging the region.
In 2011, county commissioners approved a special use permit ordinance that replaced a 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.
“We wrapped up the narrative portion of the SUP and made good progress on the Table of Permitted Uses (TOPU) at our November work session,” planning board chairwoman Donna Girardot said in an email Thursday. “So I'm hopeful that we will be able to complete the entire item at next Thursday's work session. If we are able to do that, the SUP will be on the Planning Board's January agenda for adoption.
“It's been a very complex and at times, controversial document, but I feel confident that what the planning board has drafted with the assistance of our partners - the NC Coastal Federation, the . . . Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and BASE (Business Alliance for a Sound Economy) - we will have a good product that will be both business-friendly and protect our environment,” Girardot explained.
O’Keefe, who along with his staff has put a lot of time into the SUP this year, is hopeful the next work session will help bring this matter to a conclusion.
“Ideally, they get through it next Thursday, and then the board votes next month,” he said.
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce representative Hal Kitchin is also confident the end is near.
“I believe the [planning] board wants this to be the last work session,” Kitchin said.
If the planning board votes to send their recommended SUP on to the commissioners in January, then the commissioners could consider it at their February session.