07/28/04 — Crowd objects to base zoning

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Crowd objects to base zoning

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 28, 2004 2:07 PM

Around 110 people turned out Tuesday night for Wayne County's hearing on proposed zoning and building guidelines for high-noise areas around Seymour Johnson.

Seventeen people spoke during the hour-long hearing. Nearly all opposed some part of the county's plans.

John Smith of Pecan Road drew raucous applause from the crowd when he asked the commissioners to "leave us alone or buy our land and let us move away."

The county board won't be making any decisions soon.

A recent change in state law requires local governments to give the military special notice of any pending zoning changes that might affect bases. Gov. Mike Easley signed the law on July 8, but the county wasn't aware of it until it was too late to make official notification before Tuesday's hearing, County Attorney Borden Parker said.

So a third public hearing will be needed. The commissioners will hold a work session on the proposed rules at their Aug. 3 meeting and could decide then to set the hearing.

The moratorium on new subdivisions and mobile home parks around the Air Force base is now scheduled to expire Sept. 1. The ban has been in place since December.

The commissioners have been working to eliminate some of residents' concerns about the land-use rules, and Tuesday's hearing wasn't as long or as fevered as the first hearing in May.

But speakers still hoped to catch the commissioners' attention.

Peggy Luna of Goldsboro told the board that her husband had damaged his hearing while serving in the Air Force. Noise is just part of life around the base, she said. "You get used to it."

Jim Barnwell of Dudley asked if the "airport overlay district" proposed around the base wouldn't eventually be applied to the county's other two airports. That would hurt development, possibly having a worse economic effect than the base closing, he said.

Joe Daughtery, Ed Wharton and John Smith all expressed preference for the Planning Board's recommendations, rather than the package the commissioners had agreed to send to the hearing. The main difference is the Planning Board would allow builders a looser standard for noise reduction.

Hugh Roberts asked why the Air Force doesn't require its own housing to muffle outside noise. "If the military wants us to have the restrictions, let the military follow the restrictions itself," he said to applause.

Randolph Rash said that jet noise is less bothersome than many yard appliances. "A lawnmower is worse than aircraft from Seymour Johnson," he said.

Joseph Hackett, a candidate for the Board of Education, said that the new rules could contribute to the base closing. If the county requires landowners to notify buyers of high noise, property values could drop, Hackett said. That would affect many people who work on the base.

"They wouldn't be able to concentrate on their jobs," Hackett said. That would affect the base's readiness, which could make it more prone to closure.

The commissioners plan to discuss the proposal at their meeting next week.

The commissioners will convene at 8 a.m. Tuesday for a briefing on the agenda. The meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room, third floor, Wayne County Courthouse Annex, 224 E. Walnut St. The work session will likely follow the regular meeting.