WILMINGTON – New Hanover County commissioners on Monday afternoon tabled a public hearing on proposed revisions to the county’s industrial special-use permit.
Roughly 200 people who showed up for the public hearing filed out of the commissioners’ assembly room in downtown Wilmington after commissioners, in a 4-1 vote, agreed to wait for the New Hanover County Planning Board to decide which changes to recommend to commissioners.
Commissioner Vice-Chairman Jonathan Barfield Jr. made the motion to remove the public hearing and any subsequent decision by the board from the agenda.
Barfield said that he did not want the board of commissioners to “get ahead” of a board it has appointed.
During its Nov. 3 meeting, the planning board unanimously voted to table a recommendation to commissioners.
Commissioner Chairwoman Beth Dawson, whose bid for re-election was thwarted in the Republican primary in March, was the only commissioner ready to move forward with a decision Monday, voting against the motion to table the hearing.
Changes to the special use permit, or SUP, have been in discussion for more than two years and “now is the time to move forward with the next steps,” Dawson said.
New Hanover County adopted a SUP for industry in 2011.
Pressure from business groups that claim the SUP deters economic growth prompted county staff and the planning board in 2014 to make permit revisions. Their suggestions sparked concerns among residents and environmental groups, who feared some of the proposed changes loosened the vetting process for intense industry and manufacturing.
One set of suggested changes to the special-use permit are the result of months of discussions, debates and compromises hashed out by a community task force led by the North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Shortly after receiving the proposal from that task force’s “model” industrial SUP, the county released a different set of proposed changes based on recommendations from its consultant, Michigan-based LSL Planning.