Wednesday, June 29, 2022

New Hanover Planning Board considering amendment to make post-storm temporary housing more feasible

Previously, temporary housing for disaster victims was not specifically addressed in the county's planning and zoning code.

Current regulations do not address displaced residents and temporary housing due to natural disasters but a proposed amendment would help clarify what is allowed in New Hanover County (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)
Current regulations do not address displaced residents and temporary housing due to natural disasters but a proposed amendment would help clarify what is allowed in New Hanover County. (Port City Daily/Michael Praats)

WILMINGTON — Hurricane Florence displaced hundreds of residents throughout the region, destroying entire homes and damaging countless other. So, what are residents supposed to do until their homes can be rebuilt? The answer for many is temporary housing, be it an RV or mobile home, but in New Hanover County current zoning laws do not necessarily make it easy for displaced residents to set up their temporary housing.

In an attempt to ease the burden of the displaced, the New Hanover County Planning Board is considering an amendment to current zoning laws that will allow temporary housing for residents to be located in any zoning district, by right, for one year.

According to the Planning Board’s agenda, “Currently, the Zoning Ordinance does not specifically address the allowance for temporary relocation housing for displaced persons as a result of a natural or other disaster. In the immediate and long-term recovery periods following such a disaster, the need to provide temporary housing may be a critical and time-sensitive need.”

The request is supported not only by planning staff, but has gained the backing of President of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association David Spetrino and the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.

“This amendment would allow temporary relocation housing in all zoning districts by-right. The housing units may consist of temporary housing types such as manufactured homes, travel trailers or recreational vehicles, tiny homes, or other temporary units on an individual lot, or as multiple units grouped in a community setting. In addition to compliance with the zoning regulations prescribed in the draft language, temporary relocation housing must also adhere to any applicable code requirements,” according to the board’s agenda.

If approved, the following requirements will have to be followed for temporary housing:

  • The proposed location shall be within a disaster area with specifically defined boundaries and under specific conditions as determined by a federal Disaster Declaration where public or individual assistance is made available, or as determined by the County Manager.
  • Temporary accommodations for the displaced as permitted by this section shall not be installed for more than 12 months from the date of the declaration or determination, except as authorized by the Board of Commissioners.
  • Temporary housing units shall be removed from the site within thirty (30) calendar days after completion of the rehabilitation work which may include, but not be limited to, issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, Certificate of Completion, or final inspection if this occurs prior to the 12-month expiration or Board authorization term.
  • All applicants for temporary housing units shall register with the Planning Department.
  • Temporary housing units may be subject to additional agency approvals which may include, but not be limited to, water supply, wastewater disposal, solid waste management and disposal, building permits, stormwater permits, or other utilities through the applicable regulatory office. Additional code requirements which may include, but not be limited to, building code and fire code shall be adhered to
  • Temporary housing units shall comply with either the minimum National Flood Insurance Program standards as set forth in Code of Federal Regulations, Title 44 Part 60 or the Flood Damage Prevention Ordinance.
  • Each housing unit shall have a minimum setback of five (5) feet from any street right-of-way or property line.
  • For temporary housing units in a community or group setting, the following shall apply:
    • All units shall be setback a minimum of twenty (20) feet from the perimeter of the site.
    • A sketch plan showing the general location and estimated number of units, parking, access points and traffic circulation, and provisions for utilities including power, water supply, wastewater disposal, stormwater management, and solid waste management shall be submitted to the Planning Department.

The City of Wilmington

The City of Wilmington is also lifting some regulations to help those displaced by the storm by loosening restrictions placed on local area hotels. Previously, the city and District Attorney Ben David filed nuisance abatements against several hotels that forbid them from renting rooms to anyone with a local address.

“The City of Wilmington has notified a few local hotels originally placed under a court order in an unrelated matter that they will not take legal action against them if they rent rooms to any local resident with a FEMA/Red Cross voucher, or who can otherwise show that they have been displaced out of their home due to the storm,” Wilmington Spokeswoman Malissa Talbert said.

“Assisting our citizens who have been devastated by Hurricane Florence is a top priority for the City of Wilmington,” said Wilmington City Manager Sterling Cheatham via press release. “This is a temporary measure created by the city to help house those displaced by the storm.”

Michael Praats can be reached at

Related Articles