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Environmentalists don't want to lose special use permits to New Hanover development

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Environmentalists say New Hanover County should be able to improve economically without jeopardizing quality of life.

The recent Garner Report recommended the county should get rid of a permit process aimed at protecting air quality. Now the City of Wilmington and the County are coming together to discuss what to do.

"We're fortunate to live here in an extraordinary place," Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kent Burdette.

He says whether it is the historic districts or the coastal communities, there are many reasons people continue to move to New Hanover County. It has become the second most densely populated in the state.

"As the space we have becomes less and less, it becomes worth more and more," Burdette said.

The Garner Report recommended 21 ways to improve economic development in the county, but the North Carolina Coastal Federation says, while there are several controversial items in the report, their main concern is a recommendation to remove a special use permit for businesses that want to move to the area. The current SUP was put in place to protect air quality.

County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield says it is all about balance.

"Balancing the need for jobs in our community in economic development with our fragile environment here," Barfield said.

Barfield says there are several ideas about the current SUP circulating in the Chamber of Commerce.

"They want to see it either revamped or scrapped," he said.

No one from the chamber was available for comment, but Burdette says this collaborative effort is important for the future of this county.

"We need a model industrial development process," Burdette said.

The city and county will start the discussion about all of the 21 recommendations for economic development at a joint public meeting Aug. 26.

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