03/29/05 — Zoning compromise reached on churches in high-noise zone

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Zoning compromise reached on churches in high-noise zone

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on March 29, 2005 1:45 PM

The Goldsboro Planning Commission agreed Monday night that new churches should be allowed in some high-noise areas near Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The commission recommended that the City Council permit new assembly halls in areas with average noise levels of less than 70 decibels. That would help Adamsville Church of God, which has already bought property near the base.

The issue, as well as the rest of the proposed Unified Development Ordinance, will go to the City Council at its meeting Monday.

The church regulations had been the last unresolved issue in the ordinance, which is an attempt to overhaul and streamline city rules on development.

The proposed rules would have kept new churches out of areas where noise levels average above 65 decibels. Also banned would be nursing homes, schools, day care centers, and places where people assemble, like movie theaters or auditoriums.

But that standard was too strict, Planning Commission members felt.

Unlike schools or theaters, churches are not heavily used every day, said Chris Boyette, who suggested the compromise. And Sunday typically is not a day when the airmen are training, he said.

If the ordinance is approved as it is now proposed, churches could be built without restriction in areas under 65 decibels. In 65-70 decibel areas, they would be allowed but could not have on-premise day-cares or schools. They would be barred in higher-noise areas and in the accident-potential zones around the base.

Existing churches would be allowed to rebuild or expand their buildings by up to 25 percent if they use building materials that would reduce noise levels to 45 decibels or less.

Other issues

Also on Monday, the Planning Commission considered three land-use requests that were discussed during the City Council's public hearings last week.

The most discussion was about Kathy Woodard's request concerning a fence that once stood behind her apartment complex on Harding Drive, just north of the YMCA's soccer fields.

After buying the property last summer and consulting with the city, she replaced the broken fence with a row of wax myrtles, currently 3-4 feet tall. Afterward, the planning staff realized that the City Council had ordered the fence in 1995 as one of the conditions of allowing the apartments.

She is now seeking to amend the original special-use permit so that the fence would not be required.

Residents of Darby Place had said last week that they felt safer and had better privacy when the fence was in place.

But Planning Director Randy Guthrie said Monday night that the plantings will be a better buffer in time. They will grow taller and thick than a fence, plus they do not need as much maintenance.

The city has been trying to emphasize natural buffers, he said, adding that is probably why Ms. Woodard was mistakenly told last year that she didn't have to replace the fence.

The commission voted unanimously to recommend that the fence not be restored.

It also recommended two zoning requests.

Bellene Holdings is asking for almost 8 acres on the east end of Corbett Street, off McLain Street, to be rezoned R-16 residential. If granted, that would allow single-family homes on 1/3-acre lots.

Keith Peten is asking the city to rezone less than an acre on the west side of Harrell Street, off Dixie Trail. If the rezoning is granted, he plans to give the land to Habitat for Humanity to build a single-family home.