07/26/04 — Base-area zoning, eight months in the making, to get final review

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Base-area zoning, eight months in the making, to get final review

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 26, 2004 1:58 PM

After eight months in the works, Wayne County's new development rules in high-noise areas around Seymour Johnson are nearing completion.

The county commissioners have called a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Courtroom 1 in the Wayne County Courthouse. The board could vote that night but is more likely to wait until its Aug. 3 meeting.

The proposal has been written and rewritten in recent months, swinging from more to less restrictive and then back again.

As of now, the county plans to make three major changes.

First, it would rezone nearly 20 square miles around the Air Force base and the pathway of jet traffic. This includes properties in the Brogden, Indian Springs, New Hope and Saulston townships and along roads such as U.S. 13 South, U.S. 117 South, U.S. 70 East, and N.C. 111 South.

In most cases, the new zoning would reduce the amount of development allowed in these high-noise areas. New residences would be prohibited in some areas.

Second, it would establish zoning for another 6.8 square miles that borders the existing zoned land. The county is trying to control growth up to a half-mile outside of areas with average noise levels of 65 decibels or greater.

Most of the land would be initially zoned as "RA-20," which allows agricultural uses and residences on half-acre lots or bigger. But some property would be zoned more restrictively.

Third, it would create an "airport overlay district" that would cover the 65-decibel zone. The district would keep most new development out of areas with high potential for aircraft accidents.

In other areas, developers would be required to use noise-reducing materials in new construction.

The proposal would affect thousands of properties. Notices were sent to property owners earlier this month.

More than 120 people came to a public hearing in May on an earlier version of the zoning rules. The commissioners have made several changes in response to complaints.

The county would now allow mobile homes to be replaced in parks or on private lots without restriction.

Churches would be allowed to expand or build without having to comply with noise-reduction materials. They still would not be allowed in areas with noise levels typically over 75 decibels.

Any existing home or business would be allowed to remain, expand or rebuild without having to use sound-reduction materials.

Single-family homes would be allowed as a special use on land zoned by the county for "light industry." That will give county boards the chance to allow families to split lots off for relatives to build but will not permit subdivisions.

A noise disclosure statement would be required on many land documents, but it no longer will say that high noise levels are potentially harmful.

The most controversial portion of the rules this summer has concerned noise-reduction standards.

The Planning Board had recommended that in areas with average noise levels above 65 decibels, new construction should be designed and built to reduce the interior noise level below 60 decibels.

But the commissioners later informally agreed that in the high-noise areas, new construction should lower outside noise by 25-35 decibels, depending on location. That would typically filter exterior noise level to under 40 decibels.

The Planning Department is expected to develop brochures or handouts to help builders understand and meet the new standards, whatever they ultimately are.