The debate over how New Hanover County awards special-use permits for specific land uses will continue for at least one more month.
A hearing scheduled for next Thursday’s meeting of the county planning board has been rescheduled for the board’s regular meeting in March, according to a notice released Friday afternoon.
The notice states the delay is due to “the large amount of comments received” since an initial hearing in January, as well as to the loss of staff time this week when county offices were closed due to the winter storm.
Planning Director Chris O’Keefe did not immediately return a message left Friday seeking clarification. Last week, O’Keefe said his office had received a sizeable amount of written comments, which the planning board had solicited following the first hearing. He said several of those comments were form letters, meaning they included similar statements but were signed by different individuals.
More than a dozen speakers addressed the proposed changes at the hearing in January. Industry advocates maintained the changes would clarify the process for awarding special-use permits, while environmentalists and others said the changes would remove an existing requirement for applicants to provide a list of external impacts, such as noise, light, air quality and others.
Special-use permits are awarded to allow a particular land use—industry and others—that would otherwise not be allowed through traditional zoning. The process was adopted in 2011 to provide more controls over such uses.
Board members voted to continue the hearing, directing staff to revise the debated sections of the ordinance and solicit comments from the public. Comments were sought specifically on sections 71-1 (2) of the county zoning ordinance, which deals with the special-use permitting process, submittal of applications and the type of information that may be requested for review by county staff, the planning board and commissioners.
Comments were accepted through Jan. 24. It was unclear Friday whether comments would continue to be accepted with the hearing rescheduled.
The hearing is tentatively scheduled to be held at the board’s regular meeting on March 6.
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