11/17/06 — County planners eye airport rezoning proposal

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County planners eye airport rezoning proposal

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 17, 2006 1:45 PM

A Wayne County Planning Department plan could help the Goldsboro-Wayne Airport expand over the next 20 years -- if the airport's governing body agrees to the proposed zoning changes.

Since a six-month moratorium was placed on development around the airport in September, planners have worked to create a proposed zone restructuring that would allow industrial and residential development near the airport without hindering airport growth.

The county planning department used information from the airport's 20-year plan to create a proposed rezoning map, Planning Director Connie Price said. The county Airport Authority has not approved the plan but Price will give them an overview of it on Dec. 7.

Over the next 20 years, airport officials want to extend its runway from 5,500 to 6,000 feet, and eventually to 9,000 feet, Price said.

The extension to the north would cut through Mount Carmel Church Road. While presenting the proposed rezoning to the planning board on Tuesday night, Price said the road would either have to be closed or rerouted to accommodate such an extension.

On Thursday, County Manager Lee Smith said county and airport officials would discuss the issue with the state Department of Transportation before any changes would be seriously considered.

The majority of the land around the airport is zoned for airport use, with residential zoning to the south near Stoney Creek Church Road and light industry zoning northwest of the airport. That light industry zone is located south of Mount Carmel Church Road and east of Airport Road.

The planning department's proposed change would rezone most of the land around the airport to light industry. The only areas that would maintain an airport zone are pockets of land near Stoney Creek Road, Mount Carmel Church Road, Airport Road and a strip of land east of the runway.

The benefit of rezoning a majority of the land around the airport to light industry is that the light industry zone doesn't allow for most residential development, but does allow for the airport to continue operations, Price said. The only residential development allowed in the airport zone is one home per one-acre lot, he pointed out.

Airport Authority member Otto Keesling said if the airport is going to continue to grow, it must be protected from residential growth. But other kinds of growth would be welcome, he said.

"Ideally, we want the development to be industrial -- plants, manufacturing. Those are places that won't mind the noise of the airport," Keesling said.

Wayne County Development Alliance President Joanna Thompson agreed that light industry zoning near the airport would benefit both the county and the airport. Industries interested in moving to the county would be able to find even more potential sites that are already zoned to accommodate light industry, she said.

In the past, some aviation-related industries have asked the county about acquiring hangar space at the airport or developing land near it, Ms. Thompson said.

Even if an industry doesn't locate near the airport, the airport still benefits industries in Wayne County with its services, Airport Authority member Dr. Harold Berk said.

"The airport provides tremendous economic capabilities to Goldsboro and Wayne County. It provides an opportunity for other industries to come here by providing a safe place for (industrial) executives to land," Berk said.

The planning department also is suggesting height restrictions for development within 10,000 feet of the runway. The first height restriction extends a majority of that 10,000-foot distance and doesn't allow for structures taller than 284 feet. Just beyond that, the height restriction doesn't allow structures taller than 450 feet, Price said.

In the next month, Smith said county officials will meet with Pikeville and Goldsboro officials to discuss zoning in both municipalities. Any structures higher than 15 stories tall could cause problems, he noted.

County and airport officials agreed earlier this year that a six-month moratorium on development near the airport would give the planning department time to consider ways to protect it while encouraging development. The moratorium includes land extending from Lancaster Road to Stoney Creek Road and contains about 2,200 acres of land.

Wayne County has assisted the airport over the past 30 years by investing in land and hangars. Airport officials have also received millions in state and federal money toward airport improvements. But any development that encroaches on the accident potential zone near the end of the airport's runway, such as a house or communications tower, might force the county and the airport to pay back those contributions, Smith said.