05/06/10 — Commissioners set hearing on rezoning in base noise area

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Commissioners set hearing on rezoning in base noise area

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 6, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County Commissioners on Tuesday did everything but say outright that a rezoning request for a lot off U.S. 117 South was all but dead on arrival before finally agreeing to schedule a public hearing on the issue anyway.

The basis for the board's reluctance to entertain the request was concerns that it flies in the face of county policy to protect areas, even outlying ones, that could adversely affect Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

There were concerns as well that deviating from that policy would open floodgates that would be difficult to close and that the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission would perceive it as the county permitting encroachment around the base.

The request for the public hearing was not a separate item on the board's Tuesday agenda, but rather a part of the consent agenda. That agenda is approved en masse in an up or down vote.

The hearing will be held June 1 at 9:15 a.m. in the commissioners' meeting room on the fourth floor of the county courthouse annex.

Cecil Bryan has petitioned the county to rezone a 22,000-square-foot lot on the south side of Lake Avenue, just west of U.S. 117 South, from Residential 30 to Residential 10. Bryan wants to build a triplex apartment on the property. He already has early clearance to build a duplex, similar to ones on adjoining lots he owns.

It is the second time the rezoning has been sought. The first petition did not receive a favorable recommendation from the county Planning Board. The latest revised proposal has.

The property falls within the 65-70 decibels day-night average sound level noise zone. Residential uses are discouraged in that zone, Dennis Goodson, Seymour Johnson deputy civil engineer, wrote in a letter to County Planner Connie Price.

"We have a policy to protect one of the biggest industries (the base) in the county," said commission chairman Jack Best, reminding his fellow board members that county officials have assured the Air Force that they would work to protect the base from encroaching development.

"If we change it for Mr. Bryan, once you give in you have to give in to the other people," Best said. "I have a problem. I think it will open the floodgates. I am concerned about that."

Price told Best that all commissioners were talking about at that point was simply establishing a public hearing and nothing else.

"I'd like to hear what the public has to say," Commis-sioner Steve Keen said.

Best remained unconvinced.

"If we give in on any circumstances, we have got to give in to other people and all of a sudden we don't have zoning any more for the base," Best said.

Keen told Best he agreed that the base must be protected. He said during the past eight years in which he had served on the Planning Board that it "had been very careful" where the base is concerned.

"If we have made up our mind not to approve it, I don't know if we need a public hearing," Best said.

"I always like to hear the public when it involves property," Keen countered.

Commissioner John Bell said he, too, had an issue with the request.

"We already are trying to establish a perimeter around the base," he said.

Bell agreed with Best that approval would make it hard to say no to others.

Commissioner Bud Gray said he did not like to tell people what they could do with their property. However, he said the county needed to take the base's letter into consideration. Commission-ers Sandy McCullen and Andy Anderson agreed with Gray

"What is the worst-case scenario?" Mrs. McCullen said.

"The public does not get heard," Keen answered.

Commissioner J.D. Evans said the county needed to be cautious about setting a precedent.

"But maybe we need to hear what the public has to say," Evans said. "We still don't have to do anything. If we have a public hearing what will it hurt?"

Best said nothing would be hurt.

"I think the consensus here is not to have a public hearing," he said. "So is it necessary? The consensus is we are not going to change (the zoning)."

Gray suggested asking county attorney Borden Parker for a recommendation.

"I would call a public hearing to hear what the public has to say," Parker said.

"We need to tell Mr. Bryan we are very concerned about the zoning," Best said.

A second rezoning public hearing request did not generate much discussion. It, too, was set for June 1 at 9:15 a.m.

Kevin Wilson is asking commissioners to rezone 2.7 acres on Genoa Road from Light Industry to Village. The Planning Board has recommended approval. Wilson wants to use an existing commercial building for a Christmas ornament business. He also plans to use an existing residence. According to a letter from base engineer Goodson, the uses are compatible in the 65-70 decibels day-night average sound level noise zone.