Four candidates competing for two seats on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners met Monday night in WHQR's MC Erny Gallery to distinguish themselves from their opponents.
In preparation for the Candidate Forum, listeners emailed questions. The most-submitted question, hands-down: where do the candidates stand on the future of the Special Use Permit?
All four say they support the idea of a Special Use Permit to protect the area’s environmental assets, but they also all support modifying the existing permit – which regulates industry.
Democrat Patricia Spear says the SUP has its good points and its evil points:
"I am for it but I’m not against modifying it if we need to. We need to actually look and find out exactly what the type of industry is coming in and see if any modifications needs to be done. We need economic growth. We do not want to stagnate it with the Special Use Permit. But it does have its place."
Republican Skip Watkins says he believes the SUP was started with good intentions.
"And I do think it needs to be modified. And I will support modification because until we can provide livable wages in New Hanover County, we’re going backwards not forwards.
Rob Zapple, a Democrat, says he’s strong supporter of having a special permitting process as an important tool in planning for the County’s growth.
"I also support the Table of Permitted Uses. I also support the recommendations for timelines that give potential applicants a clear idea of when their application will be heard and considered by the county commissioners. And I also support the listing of the negative external effects..."
Derrick Hickey, a Republican says he believes County residents overwhelmingly support the permitting process – but he agrees that developing timelines for applicants is an important step.
"I would also support changes to the Table of Permitted Uses that would allow the industries that the Garner Report recommended be brought into this community to be here by right. It doesn’t make sense to say that these are industries we wish to bring here and then make them go through a permitting process."
Disclosure: Rob Zapple is a member of the Board of WHQR Friends of Public Radio.