Proposed Change to Special Use Permit Language in NHC Raises Questions Among Stakeholders

Jan 9, 2014

Proposed changes to New Hanover County’s Special Use Permit are the subject of heated discussion among stakeholders on all sides. 

Advocates for the environment, economic development groups, and county staff seem to be at odds over the significance of one particular element in the draft. 

The new language is strictly procedural and is in no way a policy change.  That’s according to County Manager Chris Coudriet. 

But there is a component that’s getting a lot of attention and it’s called by the Coalition for Economic Advancement “one of the most substantial changes”.   That change would eliminate the need for applicants to outline projected external effects of their operation – such as air and water quality impacts, odor, and sound. 

Coudriet says that change defines the regulatory pieces and leaves those to the permitting agencies.  But county staff reserves the right to explore any ancillary element not covered through the state and federal permitting process. 

Environmental advocates worry the change means the loss of key quantitative scrutiny. 

The Coalition for Economic Advancement applauds the move, saying environmental analysis is more appropriately done at the state and federal level by regulators with specialized scientific expertise.   Local Planning Board and County Commissioners are simply not equipped to make scientific judgments, according to the Coalition. 

A vote on the proposed changes has been postponed as staff considers more changes.