09/01/06 — Count eyes ban on work at airport

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Count eyes ban on work at airport

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on September 1, 2006 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Commissioners will have a public hearing at its meeting next Tuesday to consider placing a moratorium on development around the Goldsboro-Wayne County Municipal Airport.

The measure would stop industrial and commercial development around the airport for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. During that period, Commissioner Atlas Price said county and airport officials will discuss the airport's plans for the future and how to accommodate that growth.

"Construction has been growing in the north end of the county. If we don't watch out for the construction that's going on, it could hinder development at the airport," Price said.

The municipal airport has one runway, which accommodates a variety of aircraft, including mid-sized jets. Corporations have used the runway to fly executives and employees in and out of Wayne County on business trips.

Members of the Goldsboro-Wayne County Municipal Airport Authority have expressed interest in extending the airport's runway by 1,000 feet and strengthening the runway to accommodate larger jets.

Commissioner Andy Anderson said the airport's plans could be scrapped if industry plants and subdivisions are built too close to the runway.

"We have to accommodate the industries of the future. (The county) has a market for it, and (the airport) has the demand for accepting larger aircraft," Anderson said.

The commissioners have not decided how long a moratorium would last if it were approved by the board, Price said.

"We could set it for 60 days, 90 days or six months," he said.

Anderson said he hopes the issues of growth in the northern part of the county near the airport can be resolved within six months. Goldsboro-Wayne County Airport Manager Jim Steele said there haven't been any concerns about development around the airport during the four years he has worked there, but added that six months should be enough time to resolve any problems.

With most zoning and construction issues, the county's planning board makes recommendations to the commissioners. In this instance, the planning board was not involved in the decision to hold a public hearing concerning a moratorium, Anderson said.

Since the airport has an Airport Authority, a board that handles concerns regarding the facility, Anderson said commissioners have only discussed the moratorium idea with that group.

Airport Authority member Otto Keesling said development near the runway would jeopardize the airport.

"If there was too much development, then we would have to close it down. If we did, we might have to reimburse the (Federal Aviation Administration) for all the money they have given us over the years," Keesling said.

So, Anderson said county officials and the Authority must continue to work together.

"(The Authority) give us plans on their runway and some of their other operations, and we try to protect it," Anderson said. "We may make a decision, and it might not be what the people want, but we have to make a decision based on what they say and the needs of the county."

Price agreed that considering a moratorium might be in the best interest of the county.

"This is something we've talked about for some time. We've talked about the growth of the Goldsboro airport and its importance to the county. We just wanted to take a look at it before it got ahead of us," Price said.

The commissioners' meeting will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday on the fourth floor of the county courthouse. The meeting is preceded by a briefing session which begins at 8 a.m. and all public hearings begin at 9:15 a.m.