06/09/10 — Board rejects development in restricted zone

View Archive

Board rejects development in restricted zone

By Steve Herring
Published in News on June 9, 2010 1:46 PM

The developer of a proposed 70-lot cluster subdivision in a restricted zone north of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base has pulled the project from consideration, but county officials remain fearful that similar projects could send the wrong signals to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

Too much development near the base could threaten its mission the next time the commission looks at military installations for reductions or closure.

To head off such future projects, the Wayne County Planning Board unanimously agreed Tuesday to ask county commissioners to amend the county zoning ordinance to prohibit cluster subdivisions in the Airport Zone.

The protective zones that limit development surround not only the base, but the county airport and the Mount Olive airport as well.

The recommendation will now go before commissioners, possibly as early as next week. Should they decide to pursue the change, a public hearing would be required before the ordinance could be amended.

County Planning Director Connie Price said the developer decided to halt the Indigo Run project.

"What the board chose to do tonight was begin the process to look at prohibiting a cluster subdivision in areas currently zoned as airport," Price said after the meeting.

Such action was considered years ago, but was never taken, he noted.

Along with being in the Airport Zone, half of the 70 Indigo lots would have been within the Air Force's Installation Compatible Use Zone 70-74 day-night average decibel level area. The Air Force discourages residential development in the zone because of noise and flight level concerns.

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, he received a letter from Dennis Goodson, deputy base civil engineer, expressing "strong discouragement" of the project.

The base is concerned about high-density development in the high noise areas, Goodson said.

Discussion of the proposed Indigo Run development was tabled in May after board member and county Commissioner Steve Keen raised concerns as to how approval would be perceived by military officials.

A similar concern earlier this month led commissioners to deny a rezoning request for a lot just off U.S. 117 South, which also lies in the restricted zone.

Commissioners have said the county's policy is to protect the base and that straying from it, even slightly, would open the floodgate to more development.

Lots in the county's Airport Zone must be at least one acre in size, unless the subdivision is developed as a cluster subdivision.

"Our zoning ordinance and subdivision ordinance both allow cluster subdivisions in any zone," Price said.

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, Price said. The county's subdivision ordinance allows the Planning Board to reduce the lot size, but does not require it to do so.

Cluster subdivisions concentrate homes in a small portion of the overall subdivision, which runs counter to the reason for spreading out homes built in the zone surrounding the base.

In a cluster subdivision a lot can be as small as 25 percent of the original size, but no smaller than 8,000 square feet, he said.

"In this case you could take an acre down to a quarter acre," Price said. "The idea behind cluster subdivision is that it allows a developer to make better use of the property by having less area in streets, water lines, smaller lots then you have a manager open space they can use for recreation or some other uses.

"It can help preserve farmland by setting aside areas that still might be farmed -- you don't take up all of the land in houses and streets."

No other cluster subdivisions have come through since the provision permitting them was added to the ordinances several years ago, he said.

"After that was when all of the subdivisions went away because the economy changed," Price said.