03/15/05 — City planning commission seeks compromise on church zoning

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City planning commission seeks compromise on church zoning

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 15, 2005 2:18 PM

The Goldsboro Planning Commission hopes to find a compromise in the next two weeks that would protect both a church's investment and its congregation.

At a special meeting Monday, the commission reviewed the draft copy of the unified development ordinance, which will overhaul and streamline city rules on development.

"We're on the home stretch," Planning Director Randy Guthrie said Monday night.

The commission and council are nearly in agreement on the 230-page document. The planning board accepted most changes proposed by the City Council at its retreat last week.

One last issue concerns whether new churches should be allowed in high-noise areas near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The draft ordinance would prohibit new churches being built in areas where noise levels average above 65 decibels. Also banned would be nursing homes, schools, day care centers, and places where people assemble, such as movie theaters or auditoriums.

The council has supported the ban on new churches, although it would allow existing churches to rebuild if destroyed. Council members also said they would give churches the right to expand their buildings by 25 percent if they incorporated building materials to cut outside noise to 45 decibels or less.

But some Planning Commission members wonder if the city could be more flexible.

During a public hearing last month, Lillian Jarman said that Adamsville Church of God has already purchased property near its building on McLain Street.

"They bought that land well before we thought about doing this, Chris Boyette said. "That property would be worthless to them and they couldn't sell it."

He asked if the city could decide these matters case by case. Guthrie answered that state law would prohibit the city from banning a land use and then allowing it on a spot basis. Besides, the ordinance would still allow other uses of the land, so it could be sold, he said.

Boyette suggested that the boards consider allowing more flexibility in the rules, particularly in areas with average noise levels under 75 decibels.

The commission plans to recommend a final version of the ordinance at its March 28 meeting to the City Council. The council expects to vote on the proposal on April 4.