On March 6, after two years of debates and some necessary compromises, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted several text amendments to the Special Use Permit process for industry. The adopted amendments are a compromise of what the federation proposed in its Model Industrial SUP and the amendments that had been suggested in the 2014 SUP by the Planning Board. The approved language provides more clarity and objective requirements for industrial projects.

Before the Feb. 2 New Hanover County Planning Board meeting, the North Carolina Coastal Federation and Wilmington business groups agreed to a compromise language that protects the integrity of the SUP. The Planning Board approved the changes to the text of the SUP amendments and the proposed changes to the Table of Permitted Uses (TOPU) in a 6-1 vote.

While the SUP is not perfect, it does move the process forward. It provides a clearer path for approval for industry that meets the new requirements of the ordinance, and it is clearer than the SUP the county had previously.

The SUP now extends the Planning Board review period from 20 business days to 35 business days for intensive industry, and it requires those intensive manufacturing applicants to hold a Community Information Meeting (CIM). The applicants must also provide maps that show which wetlands or natural areas could be affected, as well as list the local, state and federal permits it anticipates needing for the project.

It also identifies 16 intensive industries, including: animal slaughtering and processing; paper and paperboard mills; petroleum and coal products manufacturing; pesticide, fertilizer and other agriculture chemical manufacturing; explosives manufacturing; and alumina refining, secondary smelting and alloying of aluminum production.

These industries are only allowed in the I-2 intensive industrial zone, the county’s heavy industrial district, and are required to meet the more stringent requirements to be approved for a permit.

Moving forward, the Board of Commissioners will be reviewing the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which will offer an opportunity to continue discussion about the text amendments, specifically those to the TOPU. The amendments to the TOPU reclassify some industries to a less intensive category, which will allow them to possibly be built and to operate closer to residential and retail zones. They also do not require a CIM and need only a 20-day review, rather than a 35-day review.

The following industries have been reclassified from “heavy” to “general” or “limited”: Basic Chemical Manufacturing/Resin, Synthetic Rubber, and Artificial Synthetic Fibers and Filaments Manufacturing Paint/Coating, and Adhesive Manufacturing/Soap, Cleaning Compound, and Toilet Preparation Manufacturing/Plastics Product Manufacturing/Rubber Product Manufacturing/Clay Product and Refractory Manufacturing/Glass and Glass Product Manufacturing/Cement and Concrete Product Manufacturing.

Some attendees at the Public Hearing expressed concerns about the changes to the TOPU. The federation plans to be involved in conversations about the UDO and to encourage that those reclassified industries move back to the “heavy” category. When those industries can exist alongside residential neighborhoods and retail areas, they can pose a risk to community health.

Anywhere from five to 10 Public Hearings are expected during the UDO review process, which begins in April.

Please contact Mike Giles, coastal advocate at the Wrightsville Beach office, with any questions at 910-509-2838 or mikeg@nccoast.org.