03/10/04 — Board asked to further extend zoning around base

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Board asked to further extend zoning around base

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 10, 2004 2:02 PM

The Wayne County Planning Board is asking the county commissioners to expand zoning to thousands of acres around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base's flight lines.

The Planning Board's recommendations, unanimously approved Tuesday night, also would prohibit many public buildings, including churches and schools, from being built under the flight lines. Mobile-home parks would also be banned.

Home builders would need to use sound-dampening materials in many areas around the base.

For three months, Planning Board members considered ways to protect county residents from high noise from the base's aircraft and in areas with the highest potential for accidents during takeoffs and landings.

The board agreed on most recommendations but could not pick between two zoning maps. Both were sent to the county board.

"It's the commissioners' decision anyway; let's lay it in their laps," Planning Board member Chris Cox said shortly before the vote.

The commissioners could begin discussing the proposal at their meeting next Tuesday, but a public hearing, required for any zoning changes, could not be held before April.

The county board plans to act before June, the end of the moratorium on new subdivisions in the high-noise areas.

The Planning Board made three recommendations.

First, the county should greatly expand zoning along the lines followed by jets into and out of Seymour Johnson.

Currently, the county has restricted development on most land under the flight lines where there is an average noise level of 65 decibels or greater, but the planners propose extending that zoning another half mile out. That would take in thousands of acres, including land on Parkstown, Beston, Ditchbank and Emmaus Church roads and N.C. 581, which have never been zoned.

Second, the county should change the zoning of some land in the high-noise areas, the board said. One suggestion is to change all the land inside the 70-75 decibel range to the "airport" zone, which only allows one house per acre.

Third, the Planning Board called for all the county land around the flight lines to be placed in an "airport overlay district," which would further restrict development.

The district would prohibit new hotels, motels and homes of any type being built in areas subject to noise reaching 80 decibels or higher. They would be allowed in other areas as long as they were built with noise-dampening materials that would filter out 25-35 decibels of outside noise.

Manufactured-home parks, day-care centers, schools and public assembly places would be prohibited throughout the district. Businesses would be allowed in some areas as long as they limited the number of people on the premises at any one time.

Although it wasn't a hearing, the board allowed a few citizens to speak Tuesday night.

Randy Gray, a farmer who owns land in the high-noise area, said he supports the Air Force base, but county officials need to consider how the changes would affect him and his neighbors.

"I'm not hearing a lot of concern about how you're crippling people's livelihoods," he said. Many people may need to develop property to support themselves, yet these changes would seem to rule out a rental mobile home park, he said.

Carlyle Waters asked the board to prohibit housing on all land inside the 65-decibel contour. Children playing in yards could still suffer ear damage, he said. "When somebody gets injured, somebody can get sued."

Neal Jurney reminded the board that the county needs to protect residents not just from noise but plane accidents.