Significant changes could be underway for manufacturers seeking permits to operate or expand in New Hanover County. At a work session this morning, the planning and inspections department presented an amendment to the county’s industrial zoning ordinance that would require new companies, such as Titan Cement, to present burden of proof when filing for special use permits to operate. This means manufacturers would be required to address the impact of their operations on the community, and present evidence of compliance with existing safety and public health ordinances.
County planning manager Shawn Ralston says the proposed updates would alleviate some of the subjectivity in the current ordinance. Mike Giles, of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, an environmental advocacy group, says this amendment provides a long-overdue tool that could help the county make major decisions about companies’ permits.
"Like Titan Cement. They have a potential to have a large external impact on our community, our economy, our groundwater, our environment, our public safety, and our public health. This is the kind of review, the kind of tool that our county elected officials and our volunteer planning board commission members need to evaluate, ‘Is this going to be good for us, in the long run?’"
Members of the local Coalition for Economic Advancement, however, say the amendment could threaten this region’s existing industry. Coalition vice president Robin Spinks adds that more stringent special use permit requirements could threaten manufacturing jobs.
"In today’s world, those types of jobs are becoming less and less easy to find, and our middle class is just going away. We are left with either the software engineers, who have very specific skills, or the tourist economy, which pays basic wages. And everything in between is being attacked."
The planning and inspections department will present this amendment at a public hearing in December. Until then, it is seeking public comments.
***To review the current version of this amendment, and contribute your comments, visit the New Hanover County Planning & Inspections Department website.