Panel Paper: Characteristics of Good Governance for Coastal Sustainability: A Case Study of Wilmington, North Carolina

Saturday, November 9, 2013 : 2:25 PM
Plaza I (Ritz Carlton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jenny Biddle and Mark Imperial, University of North Carolina, Wilmington
New Hanover County has grown from a population of just over 63,000 in 1950 to 160,000 in 2000 and more than 200,000 residents today, with more than half located within the City of Wilmington (108,000). The Wilmington area’s status as North Carolina’s fastest growing regional hub creates a myriad of sustainability challenges oriented around the central challenge facing many of the nation’s coastal areas – how to balance the demands of economic growth with the need to manage ecological impacts in a sustainable manner in order to maintain the quality of life that is driving economic development and population growth in the first place.  The City of Wilmington has undertaken multiple initiatives to address the effects of continued demand for commercial, industrial, and residential development on the region’s aquatic systems, with particular focus on non-point source pollution, habitat loss and protection, fishery management, water quality degradation, water supply, and wastewater treatment capacity.

This paper will report on the organizational forms and governance arrangements employed by these initiatives to address coastal sustainability issues in the greater Wilmington region. Data will be collected through a review of plans, strategy statements, monitoring reports, and funding agreements that have used some kind of a sustainability framework.  Particular attention will be paid to governance features characterized by adaptability, responsiveness to community concerns, integrated decision-making, and coordinated implementation. Where available, data on the performance of these organizations and networks also will be analyzed.

Initiatives to be studied include:

  • The network tasked with developing an approved land use plan pursuant to the state’s Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) and the steering committee currently being formed to oversee the latest update to the plan;
  • The partnership between the City of Wilmington, New Hanover County, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), and several other public and private organizations as formalized in the Lower Cape Fear Stewardship Development Coalition (SDC), a local 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization that recognizers public agencies, developers, and homeowners for efforts to sustainably develop and redevelop their property; 
  • The City’s recent commitment to test sustainability concepts by focusing on energy conservation, green building, and efforts to reduce waste and minimize impacts on natural resources (several of these projects have won SDC awards for innovativeness); and
  • The Lower Cape Fear Sustainable Communities Consortium, which is one of only 54 regional groups nationwide to receive U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) grant funding under the HUD/EPA/DOT Sustainable Communities Planning Grant program and to be granted “Preferred Sustainability Status” by HUD for initiatives to involve public, not-for-profit, and private sectors in the planning process. Currently, the Consortium is in the process of developing a sustainability plan for the three coastal counties of Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick to address a mix of urban and barrier beach  issues, including energy, climate protection, sea level rise, waterfront access, wetland protection, and air and water quality.