05/12/10 — Plannning board takes no action on subdivision

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Plannning board takes no action on subdivision

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 12, 2010 1:46 PM

Development of a 70-lot subdivision in a restricted zone north of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base not only failed to gain the endorsement of the county Planning Board Tuesday, it set the board on course to reconsider the type of developments allowed in the zone.

Discussion of a preliminary plat for the proposed Indigo Run cluster subdivision on the north side of New Hope Road near May Road was tabled after board member Steve Keen raised concerns as to how approval would be perceived by military officials.

The Air Force discourages residential development in the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone because of noise and flight level concerns.

Too much development -- termed "encroachment" by military officials -- near Seymour Johnson could convince the Air Force to close the base, or limit its mission.

Keen, who also is a county commissioner, said he had "gotten an earful from the (commission) chairman" last week when development of a single lot in the zone south of the base was recommended for a public hearing.

At a commissioners' meeting, Keen pushed for a public hearing for a zoning request for one lot in the 65-70-decibel noise level zone located off U.S. 117 South across from Wayne Memorial Park, even though Commissioner Chairman Jack Best said it appeared the consensus among commissioners was not to change the zoning.

The board finally agreed to hold a hearing for the single lot request on June 1.

Best said at the time that the county's policy is to protect the base and that he was concerned that straying from it even slightly would open the floodgates to more development.

The 70-lot request presents another problem. A cluster subdivision allows homes within a subdivision to be built on smaller lot sizes than normal in exchange for the developer setting aside "green" areas to make up for the lost space. However, that concentrates the homes in a smaller area, which runs in the face of the reason for spreading out homes built in the zones surrounding the base.

More than half of the 70 Indigo lots fall within the base's 70-74 day-night average decibel level zone. Lots in that zone have to be at least one acre in size, unless the subdivision is developed as a cluster subdivision.

Keen's motion at Tuesday's session to table the Indigo Run cluster subdivision was unanimously approved. The project will be back on the Planing Board's agenda in June. Should the board fail to take action a second time, the plat will go forward to county commissioners with a presumed favorable recommendation.

"So cluster trumps the subdivision ordinance?" Keen said.

"It (the county's subdivision ordinance) allows the Planning Board to reduce the lot size, but does not require you to do so," County Attorney Borden Parker told board members. "It gives you the option."

If the Planning Board does not act on the plat, then the sizes of the lots are not reduced. As such, even though that "no action" would be considered a favorable recommendation, Parker said he would advise commissioners to consider the plat has having a non-favorable recommendation.

Planning Board member Mike Aycock asked Price if the base had been notified about the proposal.

Price said that last year, when the county was considering a request to rezone the 81 acres where the project would be located from Airport to Residential-Agriculture 30, he received a letter from Dennis Goodson, deputy base civil engineer, expressing "strong discouragement" of the request.

Price said the base is concerned about high-density development in the high noise areas.

"With that (letter) in hand I don't see how we can approve it," Aycock said, noting the base's importance to Wayne's economy.

Bobby Rex Kornegay, surveyor for the project, said he had been unaware of the letter.

"The letter ought to say yes or no," he said. "It is a weak letter. If we had had this before now, we could have fought this battle before now."

"It does concern me. We are going against the Air Force," said board Chairman Jo Ann Summerlin, who said she would have preferred a stronger letter from the Air Force.

"I don't think the Air Force can tell you not to build," Aycock responded. "I don't think you will get anything stronger from them."

Commissioners make the final decisions on plats.

Price said the staff recommended conditional approval.

"Even with the Air Force letter?" Keen asked.

"Yes," Price said.

Price added the plat met the county's minimum subdivision requirements.

Cox questioned Price as to whether there was in anything in the county zoning ordinance to prohibit cluster subdivisions in the Airport Zone. It was considered years ago, but never added, Price said.

"The Planning Board never got behind it," he said. "That may be something you want to revisit."

Later in the meeting the board again broached the subject of cluster subdivisions in the Airport Zone.

Cox said there was no need to blanket all of the Airport Zones since the one around the base was different than the ones around municipal airports. The other board members agreed.

Cox suggested just looking at prohibiting the cluster subdivisions in the 70-decibel noise level zone.

Price said he would look at the issue and report back to the board. Any changes to the ordinance would require a public hearing before commissioners, who would have the final say.