08/04/04 — Commissioners want further study of noise levels for base zoning

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Commissioners want further study of noise levels for base zoning

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on August 4, 2004 2:00 PM

The Wayne County commissioners continued their discussion Tuesday about new development rules in high-noise areas around Seymour Johnson.

The sticking point is how much should new construction reduce noise. The commissioners decided that the Planning Board should study the matter some more.

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

But the commissioners have stated that in the high-noise areas, new construction should lower noise by 25 to 35 decibels, depending on the location. That would typically filter the noise level to 40 to 45 decibels.

The commissioners have already held two hearings on zoning around the base and will hold another one before making any final decisions. They intend to act before the Sept. 1 expiration of the moratorium on new subdivisions and mobile home parks in the high-noise areas.

The Planning Board heard more on the commissioner's position Tuesday and will discuss it more Aug. 10.

Connie Price, county planning director, answered questions about the noise levels, which are based on a study done by the Air Force. Any level below 65 decibels is not considered a problem by the Federal Aviation Administration. The decibel level is the 24-hour average of noise in the area.

The goal is to reduce the noise inside a house to 40 to 45 decibels on average. The 40-decibel figure comes from a study done by the FAA on commercial aircraft, said Price.

The county plans to make three major changes to zoning around the base. First, it would rezone nearly 20 square miles around the 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. The new zoning would allow less development in these high-noise areas, in most cases. New residences would be prohibited in some areas.

Second, it would establish zoning for another 6.8 square miles that borders 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.

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.

The proposal would affect thousands of properties.

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.

The Planning Board recommended that 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.

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