05/11/10 — Good boundaries: There is no need to mess with base land use regulations

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Good boundaries: There is no need to mess with base land use regulations

It seems innocuous enough. Why not listen to what residents have to say about rules governing development or zoning in -- or close to -- what are commonly referred to as the buffer zones around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base?

But as in most cases, there is a reason why county commissioners do not need to be messing around with the borders, the rules or anything else that might suggest to the powers that be in Washington that Wayne County is not interested in protecting the interests of the base anymore -- and why they should not waste local property owners' time pretending that the subject is open to discussion.

The rules were put in place to protect homeowners and to maintain a safe bumper between the air fields and residential development -- both for the comfort of property owners and for the safety of base and civilian personnel.

When leaders in any community start messing with those borders -- and encroachment begins -- it is hard to stop. And when word gets back to those who will be deciding which bases stay open and which will close, that can be a pretty significant strike against a community.

So while Commissioner Steve Keen might be interested in what property owners have to say about the boundaries and land use rules, and he might want to stand up for the rights of property owners in a community, he should be careful of opening a can of worms that could cost this county millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

And, just as an aside, the number of times Commissioner Keen has been involved in property questions with the county and city, and his current position on the Planning Board, there is an inkling of a concern that perhaps he might have some choices to make about whether he wants to remain a commissioner or should take on a role as a private advocate for property rights instead.

But in the meantime, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base is a vital part of this community -- and maintaining a relationship with base officials is a critical function of any government body.

That does not mean that residents' needs should be second on the list -- and it also does not mean that there will not be times when it is important for local leaders to challenge or question base rules and regulations as they relate to property ownership or any other concern that affects Wayne County's future. Seymour Johnson AFB and the Air Force do not own this community.

But when reasonable rules are in place, they should be tweaked by people who know what they are doing, not opened up to general discussion to possibly be used as a political football or for a toe-hold in a future campaign.

The noise and safety zones are there for a reason. And if they are messed with, that spells serious consequences for the future.

There are plenty of communities right now that are dealing with exactly that result.

Wayne County does not want to be one of them.

Published in Editorials on May 11, 2010 2:49 PM