New Hanover Comprehensive Plan Lurches Forward…One Chapter At A Time

nhcexceptionalresourceThe major local issue on our radar continues to be the Comprehensive Plans underway at both New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington. These two separate documents will guide the next several decades of decisions on economic development, growth, land use, recreation and public space. Both will be the backbone for new land development ordinances in the City and County. For the last two years, Chamber leadership has spent considerable time providing feedback to both the City and County as they undertook these initiatives.

The WILMINGTON COMPREHENSIVE PLAN is scheduled for City Council approval in March 2016–being discussed as a single document. Alternatively, the NEW HANOVER COMPREHENSIVE PLAN has been moving through the process on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Unfortunately, this strategy has been exceptionally problematic as the chapters are debated and “approved” by the County Commissioners, without knowing what is coming next and without being able to edit what came before. As we have gotten to the crux of the document (Chapters 4 and 5), this issue has come to a head.

In the New Hanover County Comprehensive Plan, CHAPTER 4 contains the new Future Land Use Map, the separate Exceptional Resource Area Maps and a new Aquifer map. CHAPTER 5 sets out to tie implementation guidelines to these maps and provide other future regulatory framework. In their current form, CHAPTER 4 and CHAPTER 5 will have an extreme impact on the future prosperity of New Hanover County.

HYPERBOLE? Here’s a concrete example:
CHAPTER 5, Implementation Guideline IC1:

“Discourage maximum densities, impervious coverage and development potential in Exceptional Resource Areas to minimize hazard risk and conserve environmentally sensitive areas.” All the shaded areas on the map to the left would be discouraged from development potential. This includes land in all three of the County’s new major growth nodes and significant undeveloped parcels of industrial land in the 421 corridor where CFPUA is providing water & sewer.

Unfortunately, CHAPTER 4 has been “approved” by the County Commissioners and staff claims it is no longer up for discussion. CHAPTER 5 is in the process of review by the New Hanover County Planning Board. BASE provided comments for the Planning Board’s recent work session on CHAPTER 5 and was invited to sit at the table with the Planning Board to attempt to work out our concerns. We anticipate changes to CHAPTER 5 and will continue to actively participate in this issue as it moves forward.

BOTTOM LINE: It is critically important that whatever is adopted in New Hanover County recognize and complement the development in an adjoining jurisdiction, be it Pender County or the City of Wilmington. Consistency in plans, place types and future regulation will be beneficial to all the partners in the region. We will continue to push for 1) City/County collaboration on long range plans and 2) transparent regulations which benefit economic prosperity and quality of life.


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