Comments to the County Commissioners – 6/2/14
Concerning: Proposed Changes to the Special Use Permit process.
Chairman White and County Commissioners,
My name is Rob Zapple and I am a resident of New Hanover County.
I am encouraged to be in a room this evening where everyone agrees that a Special Use Permit process that maintains a strong local voice, is important to our community. We have made great progress – but there is still a ways to go.
The SUP provides critical protections to our environment while at the same time explains to industries and business the regulatory framework that they must operate within.
There are several elements of the proposed changes to the SUP that I support – including those that bring clarity, definition and a specified timeline that allows applicants some certainty in the application process.
However, there are other aspects of the proposed changes that could potentially weaken important environmental regulations and result in increased pollution to our air and water.
My concerns are related to those sections that allow for the unregulated Expansion or Modification of existing industries without County staff review, or further explanation of potential environmental damage to the surrounding community.
I also disagree with the proposed change that would eliminate the need for applicants to fully disclose the potential environmental consequences and external effects of their operations. Early and full disclosure of all external effects is in everyone’s best interest – both applicant’s and our community. The sooner potential problems can be identified the sooner they can be mitigated.
Of additional concern are the proposed specific changes offered in the Staff Recommendations to the Table of Permitted Uses – including Pharmaceutical, Medical and Biological Manufacturing – these changes need further definition and an explanation as to why these categories should be modified.
The Cape Fear Region is now the fastest growing area in North Carolina. While we are the 2nd smallest, in land size, in the State – we are the most densely populated county, only behind the counties that include Charlotte and Raleigh – and 50,000 more people are expected to move into our area in the next 10 years.
We need a Special Use Permit process that protects our environment and the health of our citizens while providing a clear and predictable process for business and industry.
I urge the Board to continue this item for further information, particularly in the context of the County’s Comprehensive Plan process that is now in development.
If that happens I believe that the Business Community and the Environmental Community can come together around a solution that is in the best interest of New Hanover County.
Thank you for your attention and time.