Environmental, business groups reach compromise on SUP industrial permitting

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Before a public hearing of the New Hanover County Planning Board, environmental and business advocates announced they had reached a compromise on revisions to the special use permit process that regulates industrial permitting, which drew concerns from some that the requirements were too burdensome.

The hearing drew a standing room only crowd, ending with the board voting 6-1 to approve the changes, sending it to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners for approval.

In addition to representatives of several business organizations, Mike Giles, coastal advocate with the North Carolina Coastal Federation, also spoke in favor of the changes, with all speakers citing the compromise reached by stakeholders with different viewpoints and goals.

“It will work for everyone in this room,” said Cameron Moore with the Cape Fear Home Builders Association.

At the hearing’s start, planning board chair Donna Giradot said she “felt confident” in the draft.

“Did each group get everything it wants? I doubt it,”” Giradot said.

The compromise included amendments to the definition of intensive manufacturing and eliminated definitions of limited and general manufacturing. It also included some reductions in the community review process, including reducing review times from 35 days to 20 days.

But the compromise didn’t have full support on the board, as member David Weaver said he had questions about the motivation for the change.

“Why are we doing this? Is our economy weakening? Do we need to weaken our regulations to do that to bring in marginal industries? I would say no,” Weaver said.

A few speakers said they had come to support the Coastal Federation, and while they still had concerns, they mostly offered mild criticism, urging specific changes. One said he felt like “an orphan,” having signed up to speak in opposition before the announcement of the compromise. Several said they still had concerns over reclassification of industries that had characteristics of heavy industry.

Speaking in support was former Wilmington mayor Harper Peterson, who praised the effort by environmental advocates.

“It only takes one industry to impact our paradise,” Peterson said. “Water is sacred. If we can unify around that.”

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