Commissioners approve zoning restrictions around base
By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on March 2, 2005 1:54 PM
The Wayne County commissioners approved an ordinance Tuesday restricting population density and establishing a noise overlay zone around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
The ordinance will affect about 26 square miles of land. New homes won't be allowed in areas with noise levels that average more than 75 decibels, although other construction will be permitted.
The 70-decibel noise contour zone, starting around New Hope Road and moving north east in a cone shape toward Greene County, will be zoned airport instead of RA-30.
The airport zone will allow one residence per acre instead of one per three-fourths of an acre that is allowed in the RA-30 zone.
In areas with average noise levels of less than 65 decibels, builders won't need to use any special materials. But homebuyers will receive a notice that their property is located in a high-noise area.
"This ordinance is really more about new construction than it is about existing buildings," said County Manager Lee Smith.
Two weeks ago the commissioners discussed postponing the vote until January 2006, after federal authorities announce which military bases in the U.S. will be closed.
Commissioner Atlas Price, who had initially recommended postponing the decision, made the motion Tuesday to pass the new ordinance.
The federal Base Realignment and Closure commission (BRAC) is expected to announce its decisions in November.
Price said that it was possible that Seymour Johnson could receive other aircraft with different noise levels, and that was the reason the board had considered postponing the vote.
But members of the Military Support Group, a committee of citizens and local businessmen working to keep the base here, asked the commissioners to vote on the ordinance now, instead of waiting until next year.
The commissioners spent some time Tuesday discussing one of two possible maps to adopt for the zoning ordinance.
In the end, the board opted to go for the original map recommended by the planning board, which zones an additional half-mile of land.
The commissioners rescinded a moratorium, effective since December 2003, which prohibited new subdivisions and mobile home parks in the high-noise areas.
Commissioners also said that any subdivision whose preliminary plan had been approved by the Wayne County Planning Board could be developed.
"If an existing mobile home is moved, can another one be moved into its space?" asked Commissioner Andy Anderson.
Connie Price, the county's planning director, answered that it could and added that manufactured homes weren't being treated any differently than the stick built homes.
Anderson said he was concerned about safety and noise, but also wanted to be "as fair as we possibly can."
"We've heard a lot of concerns from the mobile home people, and I want them to know we're not discriminating," Anderson said.
Existing churches and homes will be allowed to expand under the new ordinance.
Commissioner John Bell called for the vote, saying he thought the board had discussed the issue long enough.
"We've been dealing with this for several years," Bell said. "Let's take a vote, I'm prepared to vote now."
Commissioner Bud Gray declined to vote, saying he thought a handful of property owners were going to bear the brunt of the new restrictions.
Commissioner Jack Best was out of town, so he did not vote on the measure.
The commissioners were prompted to act by a report commissioned by local officials and business leaders, delivered in 2003. The report said that both the city and county were allowing too much development close to the base.
The commissioners also approved the noise overlay design manual, as a way to give builders guidance on how to construct houses to meet the new regulations.
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