06/22/04 — City and county to buy land to protect base

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City and county to buy land to protect base

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on June 22, 2004 2:04 PM

Goldsboro and Wayne County officials want to begin negotiations to buy land off the northern end of Seymour Johnson's runway.

The N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund has given preliminary approval to a $2.3 million project that would acquire 500 undeveloped acres and restore them to wetlands.

Final approval cannot be given until after the state's new budget is completed this summer.

But city and county officials are unwilling to wait.

Representatives of the Coastal Land Trust have agreed to approach landowners and begin negotiations now.

The City Council voted Monday night to use $300,000 -- its match to the trust fund's grant -- to begin acquiring land that's primarily between the Air Force base and U.S. 70.

The county has also committed $300,000, which also could be used.

Councilmen and commissioners will also speak to some property owners they know on behalf of the Coastal Land Trust's representatives.

Local officials feel strongly that the project will draw its full funding from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Goldsboro lawyer Phil Baddour Jr., a board member, has been championing the project, which is ranked as one of the trust fund's highest priorities once it secures its allotment from the Legislature.

Beginning negotiations now will speed the project, City Manager Richard Slozak told the council Monday.

The proposal is to buy 500 undeveloped acres, nearly all of which is deemed "Accident Potential Zone I," the area where jets are statistically most likely to crash during either landings or takeoffs. This zone extends nearly a mile off the runway and includes land on both sides of U.S. 70.

The property includes 31 parcels and 25 landowners.

Most of the land was ditched and drained and is being farmed or in timber production. The area drains into Stoney Creek, a tributary of the Neuse River.

The wetland restoration would be done with the advice and consent of Air Force personnel. It would not involve creating marshy areas that would attract birds into the jets' paths.

Buildings already in the accident potential zone would not be affected and would be allowed to remain.