06/11/04 — Commissioners must decide on base zoning

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Commissioners must decide on base zoning

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 11, 2004 2:02 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners will once again face the decisions of if and how to limit development in high noise areas around Seymour Johnson.

The Wayne County Planning Board voted Thursday night to recommend new zoning for thousands of acres around the Air Force base and its flightlines.

The board also is asking the county to require new construction to cut outside noise below 60 decibels. Building to the state's minimum building code, plus a few additions like storm windows and central air systems, should be adequate for most homes, the planners said.

The commissioners will now decide the matter. They could decide as soon as Tuesday to schedule a public hearing.

The proposal that is going back to the commissioners is less stringent than the one that drew an angry crowd to a hearing last month.

The county already has zoned land that's directly under the path of jet traffic into and out of the base. Generally, all county property where the average noise level is 65 decibels or higher already has some restriction on its development.

Some land inside Goldsboro is also in this high-noise area but falls under the city's zoning and would not be affected by any county action.

The new rules recommended Thursday would prohibit new homes being built on land with an average noise level of 75 decibels or more or inside the zones with high potential for accidents.

But even if zoning prohibited it, some landowners could still build if they could convince the county to grant an exemption called a special-use permit. This is intended to allow families to cut a few lots out of land they may have owned for generations.

New manufactured-home parks would be banned anywhere in areas with noise levels greater than 65 decibels. Existing parks would be allowed to replace homes, a concession made in the past weeks.

Another change would allow existing churches to expand without complying with noise-reduction rules.

The county is proposing to extend zoning out an additional half-mile from the 65-decibel corridor.

But the original plans were to include all parts of every property that had even dipped a corner inside that half-mile. Now the county is seeking zoning only on land inside that boundary, even if that means some properties are only partly zoned.

Also, the new proposal calls for construction to cut outside noise to below 60 decibels. Some people on the Planning Board wanted to hold builders to a 40-decibel-or-lower standard.

Board member Chris Cox argued successfully that the current housing being built on the base is only to the state's minimum building code. If the military does not believe it needs to add noise-dampening materials to its own housing, why should homes for civilians be held to a much higher standard? he asked.

Planning Director Connie Price said construction to the minimal building code would typically lower the noise filtering into a home by 20 decibels. Builders probably would not be able to use chimneys that vent directly to the outside. Central air conditioning is not a code requirement, but builders typically include it these days, he said.

Manufactured housing would most likely have to be on a permanent foundation. In some cases, additional insulation might be required.

The proposed rules do not mandate specific building materials, but the county's Planning Department would likely have guidelines to held developers.

The Planning Board spent much of its time talking about decibel-level, but another hot topic was a proposed noise disclosure notice.

The notice, which would be placed on subdivision plats and other plans, would say that noise levels on these properties average or exceed 65 decibels. It goes on to say, "Some research studies indicate that high noise levels may be harmful to the health of the user of this property."

The entire board agreed that the notice should apply to all property inside the 65-decibel corridor. The debate centered on whether it should also apply to the half-mile outside.

Steve Keen was the most vocal board member for the larger notification area.

Keen picked up on comments by school board candidate Joe Hackett, who had noted that four county schools -- Meadow Lane and Eastern Wayne elementary schools, Greenwood Middle School and Eastern Wayne High School -- are inside the high-noise area. Hackett had wondered if the county was opening itself up to lawsuits if it labeled this property as potentially dangerous.

But Keen's comments concerned new schools. If the school system was looking at land, shouldn't the seller or the county point out the potential for potentially harmful noise? Keen asked.

The majority of the board, though, sided with Cox who wanted the notice only inside the 65-decibel corridor.