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New Hanover County passes new tree mitigation rules for 421 corridor

At Monday night’s meeting, New Hanover County commissioners heard new updates to the Unified Development Ordinance regarding tree mitigation.

Last month, Commissioners first held a public hearing on tree mitigation efforts along the Highway 421 corridor, a sizeable area in the northwest part of the county, largely zoned for industrial use. Many advocates and community members spoke in opposition, saying the new proposed rules didn’t go far enough to protect native trees.

During that meeting, commissioners told county staff they wanted to delay the vote to get more information before a final vote.

On Monday, Rebekah Roth, the county’s planning director, said staff had held two work sessions with a planning group of engineers, experts, and stakeholders.

Now, the UDO amendments have been clarified to ensure more native trees will be replaced. The new language won’t require tree replacement in the areas of development containing essential structures, like factories, warehouses, or office buildings. However, elsewhere on the properties, tree mitigation would still be required; the new policy would, for example, curb the building of parking lots that are needlessly large at the expense of trees.

The consensus of the planning group was that many more trees would be saved this way.

Commissioner Johnathan Barfield voiced concern that the new rules could possibly hamper the county’s attempts to draw industry to the 421 corridor after spending considerable time and energy, along with CFPUA, to provide the upgraded water and sewer capacity in the area to support industrial uses.

“We’ve run water and sewer — spent a lot of money on that. And I would hate for us to hamper that when we’ve made such an investment here," he said.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new UDO amendments.

Camille hails from Long Island, NY and graduated from Boston University with a BS in Journalism and double minors in Classical Civilizations and Philosophy. Her story focus revolves her deep care for children, young adults and mental health. You can reach her at cmojica@whqr.org.