Proposed SUP changes meet county stalemate

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Revisions to the county’s special use permit failed to gain majority approval from the New Hanover County Board of Commission during a June 2 meeting after two dozen citizens signed up to speak on the changes.

Planning and Zoning Director Chris O’Keefe said the changes would bring clarity to the permitting process while upholding the original intent of the permit. The New Hanover County Planning Board unanimously approved the revisions during a March 6 meeting.

Nine lined up to speak in favor of the revisions, arguing they are an important step toward attracting new businesses to the area.

Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Chairman Hal Kitchin said the uncertain permitting process deters clean industries like advanced manufacturing as well as polluting industries. The revisions would prompt more businesses to consider locating here, giving the county more options to direct its growth.

“What you’re voting on tonight does not change the fact that anyone, Carolina Cement [or]anyone else who wants to get a special use permit, has to come to the elected representatives of the people to get that permit. … These changes are about giving us a chance to pick and choose,” Kitchin said.

Fifteen lined up to raise concerns about the revisions, questioning if some of the changes would weaken the county’s ability to direct its growth.

N.C. Coastal Federation’s Mike Giles agreed with the need for clarity, supporting some revisions but listing a handful of changes that might limit county input and participation, including revised language to a loophole that allows industries existing before the permit’s Oct. 2011 introduction to expand by right.

Chairman Woody White accused Giles and the federation of irresponsibly galvanizing public opinion based on the loophole, which he argued would exist regardless of  the proposed revisions. Vice Chair Beth Dawson pointed to changes being considered that could determine whether some modifications or expansions of existing industry would require a SUP.

The board split in its vote on the revisions, with Dawson and Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. voting against the changes while White and Commissioner Thomas Wolfe voted in favor.

Special use permit request by ACI Pine Ridge, LLC

Commissioners also tabled a special use permit request for a mixed-use development on the 100 block of Porters Neck Road, near the intersection with Market Street, after the board declined action in favor of more information during a March 10 meeting.

The development, proposed by Greensboro-based ACI Pine Ridge LLC, contains 271 multifamily residential units within 13 buildings, four residential parking garages, a clubhouse and associates amenities with 40,000 square feet of commercial space.

Concerns about traffic and congestion were echoed from the March meeting. The board split in their vote, with Dawson and White voting against it while Wolfe and Barfield were in favor.

County budget hearing

The recommended county budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year was presented to county commissioners during a May 19 meeting. County Manager Chris Coudriet prepared the $327 million budget, which prioritizes education, public health and safety, economic development and effective county government.

The proposed budget allocates almost $380,000 in non-county agency contributions, compared to more than half a million dollars in requests.

Representatives from Elderhaus, Cape Fear Literacy Council and Coastal Horizons Center spoke at the public hearing, urging commissioners to approve the budget. Clark Hipp, board of directors chair for Wilmington Downtown Inc., implored decreased county funding for the initiative, citing its role in economic development and growth.

The budget is slated for June 16 adoption by county commissioners. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Check out the full story in the June 5 issue of Lumina News.

email miriah@luminanews.com

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