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NHCo. Planning Board Considers Industrial Zoning Changes

By Michelle Bliss

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/whqr/local-whqr-981213.mp3

08-09-11 – The New Hanover County Planning Board is reviewing changes to industrial zoning regulations written more than 40 years ago. WHQR's Michelle Bliss reports that after a public hearing late last week, the board has agreed to postpone a vote until final revisions are made.

The amendments, drafted by county staff, would require heavy industries to apply for a special-use permit, a process that dozens of other North Carolina counties have already adopted. A special-use permitting process would require two public hearings before a company is issued its permit for building or expanding operations.

About a hundred supporters attended a public hearing last week in Wilmington to discuss the changes. Cape Fear River Keeper Kemp Burdette says heavy industries affect neighboring areas because the county is both densely populated and small, so residents should have a say.

"We need to give citizens an opportunity to hear what the impacts of a new industry would be, and we need to give citizens an opportunity to have some input. Because right now, the citizens in this county don't have any opportunity to give their input when heavy industry is coming and proposing moving into their neighborhood."

Opponents say the changes are anti-business because they require more time and money from companies looking to settle in New Hanover.

Planning Board Chair Melissa Gott made the motion to postpone. She says the board chose to delay its vote until the county attorney reviews the revisions for vagueness and legal inconsistencies.

"I realize that many people see this as addressing one particular company coming into the area, but, as a board member, I see this ordinance having long-term effect on the existing companies and industries here in New Hanover County."

Gott says the changes are aimed at creating an extra layer of governmental review for new industries, including Titan America, which just received its draft air permit last week for a proposed cement plant in Castle Hayne.

The Planning Board will vote at its September meeting. If approved, the Board of Commissioners will then vote on the changes.

See the amendments to the industrial zoning process in New Hanover County.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.