Dozens of New Hanover County citizens are brainstorming ways to use local land, resources, and economic opportunities in the not-so-distant future. It’s all part of the Comprehensive Plan, a public engagement initiative to plot the development necessary to accommodate this region’s projected population swell. In November, when the planning department initially outlined this plan, they told their commissioners they would constantly be reevaluating their strategy, to ensure that all citizens had a voice. However, a significant sector of the population hasn’t been accounted for.
Industrial businesses looking to call New Hanover County home may soon be required to hold public meetings as part of the special use permit -- or SUP – process. And the SUP is what they need to launch or expand operations. This is one among several changes that the county planning board unanimously recommended at last night’s public hearing on the most recent SUP draft—an update of a version that was tabled in January. And community stakeholders on both sides of the issue—business leaders and environmental advocates—say this new draft presents a compromise they can live with.
Some experts predict New Hanover County’s population will exceed 330,000 people by 2040—a significant hike from its current count of about two hundred thousand. And there are only about 24,000 undeveloped acres left, most of which comprise unincorporated county land. To address the development necessary to accommodate this growth, the county planning department is launching a comprehensive plan—and seeking public input.