Commissioners oppose proposed insurance rate hikes

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

With a historic 35-percent increase in homeowners’ insurance premiums proposed for most of New Hanover County, including its beach towns, the board of commissioners passed a resolution Feb. 3 that opposes the controversial rate hikes.

The North Carolina Rate Bureau on Jan. 3 proposed the increases, including some of the most significant hikes seen west of Interstate 40 in recent years. Coastal counties and municipalities, including Brunswick County, have aggressively opposed the rate hikes as coming too soon on the heels of similar rate hikes enacted in 2012, in addition to uncertainty for flood-prone property owners stemming from the federal Biggert-Waters Act.

“We join the City of Wilmington and several of our beach town that have already passed resolutions to this effect,” Vice Chairwoman Beth Dawson said after the vote, adding that the county has already sent comments to the rate bureau in opposition. “We are joining those efforts on behalf of our citizens, and would like to recommend that our citizens contact the department of insurance and make their personal opinions known on that.”

The resolution, sent to the N.C. Department of Insurance, asks state insurance commissioner Wayne Goodwin for a public hearing on the proposal to be held in Eastern North Carolina and gives formal support to his efforts to encourage the rate bureau to immediately withdraw its proposal. With significant losses experienced in noncoastal parts of the state, the resolution also counters that losses do not justify increases for coastal property owners. The same day the rate bureau proposed the increases, Goodwin panned the proposal in a statement on behalf of the state department of insurance.

“New homeowners insurance rates went into effect in July 2013,” the statement read in part. “I am appalled that the insurance companies would request another increase just six months later.”

In other business, commissioners approved an amendment to the county zoning ordinance which would have allowed recreational vehicle and boat trailer storage lots to be permitted by right in certain business and industrial districts. Former executive officer of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association Donna Girardot spoke during the public comments period, as did Design Solutions president Cindee Wolf, who proposed that some residential districts also be allowed the use with a special use permit.

Girardot argued the change to residential could hurt the value of nearby residences, citing potential problems from noise and light pollution and urged the board to revisit the proposal after completion of the comprehensive plan.

The board ultimately voted 3-1 to support the staff’s recommendation, amending the ordinance to allow developments by-right in some business and industrial zones, but not in residential districts. Commissioner Thomas Wolfe voted against the motion, arguing the special use permitting process would allow sufficient review.


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