07/14/10 — Cluster home ban pending near base

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Cluster home ban pending near base

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 14, 2010 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners next month will be asked to amend the county's subdivision ordinance to prohibit cluster divisions in high-noise areas near both ends of the runway at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

The county Planning Board agreed Tuesday night to make the recommendation.

The change would address what board members say is an oversight in the 2006 amended subdivision ordinance that first permitted cluster subdivisions, which allow developers to build homes closer to one another than would normally be allowed in return for leaving the rest of the subdivision undeveloped "green space."

The planning board and commissioners have worried for months that allowing such subdivisions near the base could lead the military to reconsider the location of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base the next time the Base Realignment and Closure Commission looks at reductions. Too much development near a base is a factor the Air Force takes into consideration when looking for bases to close.

Allowing the relatively dense development of a cluster subdivision does not fit in with county's stated policy of limiting the concentration of homes near any airport, particularly the air base, county officials said.

Prior to the 2006 change that added cluster subdivisions to permissible uses, the county had several of the projects "come through," but lacked provision to stop them in county ordinances. The planning board at that time had to grant several variances to allow those projects to proceed, County Planner Connie Price told the planning board Tuesday.

At that same time, he said, a planning board member suggested that cluster subdivisions not be permitted in areas where noise would be over 65 decibels, which would have included the areas at the ends of the base runway. But the measure was somehow omitted from the final version.

"What I am suggesting now is that we go back and look at adding that to the subdivision ordinance. The Wayne County subdivision ordinance should be amended to prohibit cluster subdivisions in areas of noise level above 65 decibels. In this case right now it would be off both ends of the runway at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base," Price said.

The change would not affect the Mount Olive and Wayne County airports, Price added.

"The noise contours there (Mount Olive and Wayne airports) are actually on the airport property," he said. "Any projections for increased air traffic on those runways in the near future still has the contours inside the areas we already have zones for. I think we have it covered at those airports. It is just for Seymour Johnson because of their noise contours extending for miles off the ends (of the runway) is a little bit different."

And property at the Mount Olive and county airports is already zoned light industry which does not permit homes to be built, he pointed out.

The issue of cluster subdivision surfaced several months ago when developer BAP petitioned for a 70-lot project that would have been built just north of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. BAP has since pulled the project from consideration.

In June, commissioners discussed the planning board's first recommendation to prohibit cluster subdivisions in airport zones. Subdivision lots inside those zones must be at least an acre in size. Allowing cluster subdivision would mean those lots could be much smaller, making the subdivision much more compact.

Rather than act on the recommendation, commissioners instructed the planing board to review cluster subdivisions in all of the county's zones. Commissioners also were concerned that developers could take advantage of the "green space" provision by turning "useless land" into the open spaces required by the ordinance to circumvent the lot size requirement. That issue was not addressed by the planning board Tuesday night.