11/26/04 — Zoning talks stick on noise-abatement

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Zoning talks stick on noise-abatement

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on November 26, 2004 1:57 PM

Wayne County officials are nearly finished with a proposal to limit development in areas around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base that experience high noise or a potential for accidents.

During a work session Tuesday, the county commissioners reached informal agreements on most of the proposed changes, including new or stricter zoning for 26 square miles around the base and its flight lines.

The remaining sticking point concerns how homes will be built in areas with average noise levels of 65 to 75 decibels. No restrictions will be required in quieter areas, and new homes will not be allowed in areas with higher noise.

For months, the commissioners have considered requiring homes in this area to cut outside noise levels by 20 to 30 decibels, but the board has bogged down on how to do that.

On Tuesday the board reached a consensus that it could not require developers to hire sound engineers or furnish similar guarantees about noise levels.

Instead, the county will develop a list of proven building materials and methods for reducing sound. People who build homes in the high-noise areas will be expected to use it, although county officials have not yet said that it will be a requirement.

The commissioners will also be putting notices on the deeds to warn if a property is in a high-noise area.

Commissioner Arnold Flowers compared the proposal to warning people about land in floodplains.

"If somebody wants to build a home on a sandbar in the Neuse River and we tell him, 'your house is likely to be destroyed,' we've really fulfilled our obligation," Flowers said.

Just as homes in floodplains can be elevated, homes in the high-noise areas can be built with better sound-proofing materials, he said.

Planning Director Connie Price, County Manager Lee Smith and County Attorney Borden Parker were asked to prepare a final copy of the ordinance for the board's review.

The commissioners could vote at their Dec. 6 meeting to set a third and final public hearing. The board plans to act before Jan. 18, which is when the moratorium expires on new neighborhoods around Seymour Johnson.