How can we attract the right type of industry to our community?

Partners from across the County are working to provide our community with the opportunity for input to determine which heavy-manufacturing uses are compatible with the region’s economy, public health, natural assets and our unique quality of life. Will you join us? 

Industrial Development in New Hanover County

New Hanover County is in the process of updating their Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). This document is the set of standards that all development must meet. Updating the UDO is a rare occurrence, and the current decades-old standards do not reflect today’s evolving economic, cultural, or environmental realities.

Our community has experienced the devastating effects of industrial negligence on regional scales with the discovery of GenX and other PFAS in our drinking water supply. With water we cannot drink, what is to stop the next Chemours from establishing within our county? Current regulations do not require adequate disclosure of potential adverse consequences for review by officials, planning staff, or community members. 

Without full public involvement and without requirements to disclose heavy-manufacturing effects on land, air and water quality, wetlands, and shared natural resources and economic drivers, the next Chemours is poised to threaten our community.  

We believe in local authority and adequate public participation to determine what are, and what are not, appropriate intensive industrial uses within New Hanover County. Through this process, we are looking to promote environmentally sustainable economic development and business practices to help our community thrive and prosper; we need new businesses that will support our entire community but not hinder any further development or harm already existing businesses. A good industry can elevate our County’s brand value locally and nationally, resulting in an increase in short and long-term job opportunities, while a harmful industry may drive away future businesses, residents, visitors, and stall career and job growth.

We are a part of the living history of Wilmington and New Hanover County, and our decisions today should be ones that our descendants will thank us for 100 years from now.

We collectively need to reach out to the New Hanover County Planning Board and Commissioners to express the need for thoughtful county-wide decisions that promote environmentally sustainable economic development, recruitment and business practices while maintaining our public health and quality of life.

Here is some suggested language for you to use or edit, as you wish. 

Dear New Hanover County Commissioners and members of the New Hanover County Planning Board,

I write to encourage you to update the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) so that it better guides intensive industrial growth in a way that both improves our economy while protecting our coastal environment as well as public health and well-being. 


  • Require a Community Information Meeting before any light industry (I-1), heavy industry (I-2), or airport industry (A-I) application is submitted. This will provide the applicant the opportunity to describe the nature and scope of the proposed project’s operation, manufacturing process, products, regulatory requirements and historic compliance, and anticipated impacts on environment and public health while at the same time establishing an open dialogue between applicants and the public for mutual benefit.
  • Require a “Review of external effects” (for uses classified as Intensive Manufacturing) wherein the applicant provides a report describing potential external effects from the proposed project on air and water quality, wetlands, surface waters and discharges, endangered species, stormwater runoff, and private and public water supplies. 
  • Engage a heavy-manufacturing industry expert to perform an independent analysis to determine which industries are appropriate and should be listed in the UDO as light industry (I-1), heavy industry (I-2), and airport industry (A-I) zoning districts. It is important that this highly technical vetting process, which has not yet been completed, be included in this UDO update. 

To send one email to all Commissioners and Planning Board members, click here

In addition to emailing the NHC Commissioners and Planning Board members, you can go to the County’s website and provide input through their online participation page here:


Industrial Use/SUP Zoning Ordinance

During 2015-2017, the federation organized a two-year process to develop recommended changes to the Industrial Use/Heavy Manufacturing zoning ordinance. The process resulted in proposed changes that would balance the need and desire to attract beneficial industrial uses to the region and ensure their location in appropriate zoning districts, while creating a thorough and publicly transparent review process for a relatively small number of heavy industries, including those most likely to adversely affect the region’s water supplies, water and air quality and economic health. 

This process was led by an expert zoning consultant, and engaged a diverse group of stakeholders from the community, as well as members of the County Planning Department staff, elected officials from New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington, and many interested community members. In March 2017, after two years of public comment and stakeholder input, the Planning Board and County Commission adopted changes to the Industrial Zoning ordinance that did not reflect the significant recommendations brought forward by the federation and community members, resulting from a robust public discussion that included residents, businesses owners, developers, and public officials. 

Furthermore, many of the last-minute changes that were adopted actually ease the requirements for potential heavy polluting industries to seek establishment within our community, in close proximity to residential and urban centers, and require very little disclosure and/or review of the potential adverse effects on our natural and economic resources. Although the public was afforded very little opportunity to comment on these changes, leadership from both the Planning Board and County Commissioners are on record from this time with assurances that many of these concerns and industrial use/manufacturing sections would be openly and thoroughly evaluated again during the UDO process. 

Benefits of the updated review process

  • Creates a process with greater clarity, predictability, and fairness for new industries to locate in New Hanover County.
  • Establishes specific submittal and timeline requirements and procedures for applicants.
  • Provides a shorter review process/or permitted by-right for the vast majority of industrial uses to attract and incentivize desirable economic development. 
  • Produces a more comprehensive, community-based review process for intensive industries.
  • Offers greater local review and oversight to protect the region’s economy, public health, natural resources 7 unique quality of life.

Questions? Contact Kerri Allen, Coastal Advocate at or (910) 509-2838

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