04/19/10 — County will weigh airport land rules

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County will weigh airport land rules

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 19, 2010 1:46 PM

The future of development around the Wayne County Airport will be the subject of a Tuesday morning public hearing before county commissioners.

Commissioners will take the first steps in determining what that future will be when they consider a 90-day moratorium on zoning changes, subdivisions and building permits in an area two miles from the north and south ends of the runway and 800 feet from the east and west sides.

The moratorium would give commissioners an opportunity to review building, zoning and subdivisions in that area.

The public hearing will get under way at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex. Commissioners will be briefed on their agenda at 8 a.m. and the meeting will start at 9 a.m.

The brief agenda also includes a request from Home Health and Hospice officials asking the county to administer a $288,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Center.

The grant covers construction costs associated with the renovation or construction of hospice facilities. The agency is in the midst of a $4 million expansion project to double the number of beds from 12 to 24.

County officials have said their decision to consider the 90-day moratorium is based on the changing relationship between the county and the airport and not on any particular issue.

Currently, an Airport Authority oversees operation of the airport that is a joint venture of the county and city of Goldsboro.

That relationship is about to change.

Goldsboro city officials in March announced the city will turn over its portion of the operation, and the Airport Authority will be dissolved, leaving the county as sole owner and operator. Even though the city does not provide any funding for the airport, the action will require local legislation in the General Assembly since the city charter will have to be amended.

The airport, hangars, equipment and infrastructure are valued at somewhere between $20 million and $30 million.

County Manager Lee Smith has said the change will not cost the county any more than it does now for the airport since it already is the local funding agent and budgets about $250,000 annually for the facility. Most of the funding comes from federal and state sources.

If commissioners proceed with the moratorium, they are expected to turn the review process over to the Planning Board.

The 90-day moratorium, if approved, would give the county time to examine the rules already in place.

The findings could be that those rules are sufficient and nothing else is needed, or it could be that there are too restrictive and should be relaxed, County Planner Connie Price said. Another possibility is that commissioners could decide the rules need tightening.

Any proposed changes would require a public hearing before they could be acted upon.

For the most part, property around the airport is zoned light industry. That zoning allows various industries, warehouses, storage and restaurants, but not residential development.

The Home Health and Hospice funding is through the Rural Health Care Initiative Grant program. The General Assembly created the grant program to stimulate economic development and job creation in distressed areas for the construction and/or renovation of health care facilities.

The program awards $12,000 for each job created up to a total of $480,000. The Kitty Askins expansion is expected to create 24 positions.

The grants must be matched by at least an equal amount of private and/or public funds.

The funds are actually granted to the local government unit, in this case the county, and loaned to the property owner, Home Health and Hospice Care, in the form of a deferred, forgivable loan. The loans are forgiven after the job creation goals have been met and verified.

Grant guidelines require the local government unit to provide a cash or in-kind match equal to three percent of the grant awarded which in this case would be $8,640.

Ground was broken for the project on Nov. 2, 2009, and construction is under way. It is scheduled for completion by Nov. 11 and will be ready for patients by Dec. 31.

A second grant, this one for purchasing property for the Old Waynesborough Park Museum, will be discussed by commissioners, too. The $20,000 grant is through North Carolina's Eastern Region.

In other business:

* Commissioners will consider final approval of an 18-lot subdivision plat on True Vine Road just north of U.S. 13 north of Goldsboro. The county Planning Board has recommended approval of the plat.

* The board will be asked to proclaim April 18-24 as Volunteer Recognition Week in Wayne County.

* Clerk of Court Pam Minshew will be recognized for having met all of the requirements for certification by the N.C. Association of Register of Deeds as certified register of deeds.

* Commissioners will be asked to retire two of the Sheriff's Office's drug dogs and sell them for $1 each to their respective handlers. Both dogs are 10 years old and were purchased through federal grants.

Following their meeting, commissioners will convene as the Wayne County Board of Adjustment to consider a setback variance request from Jonathan and Gwen Moore of Gator Drive.

The Moores are asking for the variance so they can build a free-standing building closer to their property line that currently allowed by the setback requirements.

Finally, commissioners will travel to the Smithfield Recreation & Aquatics Center for a state-mandated ethics training session.