New Hanover County could finally adopt a less stringent special use permit—or SUP—which is what industrial businesses need in order to operate. Tonight, after several months and multiple drafts, the county planning department is bringing its final version—which was unanimously approved by the planning board--before the county commission. But before they vote on it, citizens will be granted a public comment period. And, both champions and opponents of the new draft are anticipating big crowds and vehement participation.
The latest draft of the SUP application mandates a staff decision turnaround time of 55 days, and grants more weight to applicant materials such as government permits-- from organizations such as the state Division of Air Quality—whereas previously, the county could require its own qualifications. Hal Kitchin, immediate past chair of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, says this serves to streamline and clarify the process.
"Right now, the process is so ambiguous that we’re told that we’re scaring off a lot of potential new businesses. They don’t understand it, so they’re not willing to subject themselves to it. They’ll just go to another community."
But, Castle Hayne resident Kayne Darrell is among those citizens who say a more lax SUP stands to threaten the local environment, and public health.
"We’re at a crossroads, and it’s time for us to decide if we’re gonna continue down this same path that has led to us being the highest toxic emitter in the entire state, or if we have leaders that are gonna say, ‘Wait a minute; there’s a better, cleaner path that we can take that isn’t guided by special interest groups, but it’s guided by what’s best for the entire community."
If the county commissioners find favor with the new draft, that SUP will be effective immediately.
***Tonight’s county commission meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse, 24 North Third Street, Room 301, Wilmington. You can view the agenda here.