08/15/12 — Noise zone around base shrinks

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Noise zone around base shrinks

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 15, 2012 1:46 PM

The areas of Wayne and Greene County encompassed by the noise restriction boundaries around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base have shrunk by almost 2,500 acres in the Air Force's latest Air Installation Compatible Use Zone Study -- the plan that the city of Goldsboro and County of Wayne look to when considering development and zoning issues around the base.

The plan itself does not zone property, but serves as a guide for local officials when making decisions about limiting development near the base.

The AICUZ study analysis basically lays out what are compatible and incompatible land uses within those zones, both for noise and population density, Dennis Goodson, deputy base engineer, told the Wayne County Planning Board Tuesday night.

Goodson, an ex-officio member of the board, briefed board members on the new study. A similar briefing is planned for the Goldsboro City Council and the county Board of Commissioners.

"It is implemented tonight," he said. "It is to protect future growth -- to protect the residents who might move in there for future growth."

Local recommendations in the study include a review of the plan by the county and the consideration of adjusting zoning maps and ordinances to incorporate the updated information, Goodson said.

He also asked the board to continue to inform the base of planning and zoning actions that have the potential to affect the base.

"We will look at how this compares with our existing zoning map that we have, and look and see if we need to make any adjustments to our zoning maps," County Planner Connie Price said. "On the east end we will have to consider if we want to leave it where it is and on the southwest side whether to expand it out that way.

"What we will be doing in our department is looking at it over the next few months to come up with what may be the best fit for Wayne County."

The staff will come back to the Planning Board with its recommendation before taking them to county commissioners, he said.

Price said he does not know how long the process will take.

"My guess is I probably wouldn't take anything to commissioners until after November," he said.

Using large aerial photos, Goodson noted that the eastern noise contours that have extended as far as Greene County had been pulled back well inside the Wayne County line. However, on the southwest end, the lines have bulged in the area near Rollingwood Drive in Dudley.

Overall, the noise contour footprint has shrunk from 21,266 acres to 18,777 acres, he said.

Planning Board members said they would be hesitant to undo zoning already in place on the eastern side of the base even though the noise contour lines have changed. The concern is that relaxing the zoning would allow more development and greater population density -- both of which could become issue should the noise contours change again.

The zoning could be changed again should that happen, but any development that occurred in the meantime would have to be allowed to remain, members noted.

Any encroachment around the base is a concern since it could figure into future decisions by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission, the members said.

In creating the new zones, the study took into account changes in the base's mission and new aircraft, in particular the KC-46A -- the potential replacement for the base's KC-135R tankers that replaced the older KC-10.

"We are not projected for that yet, but in the event that we were these contours already address that," Goodson said.

Factors other than the new tanker figure into the changes, he added. For example, four T-38A aircraft have been removed from the base inventory and changes have been made in approach patterns, as well as other operational adjustments.

AICUZ is a program the Department of Defense started in 1973 to help communities with planning around military bases. Seymour Johnson has undergone four such studies since that time.

"What does AICUZ do for us?" Goodson said. "There are three components in an AICUZ study. The first component, which is the one most folks are familiar with, are the noise contours the aircraft and maintenance generate around the base.

"The second component is the safety zones on the approach and departure ends of our runways."

The third component is the vertical and visual obstructions that could impede flight routes.

Computers are used to create the noise contours that represent average noise levels generated by the aircraft. The contours are a "snapshot" of noise generated based on a "typical flying day," Goodson said.

The weight is heavier on noise generated at night, he said. The base has worked to reduce noise at night by limiting nighttime flights.

Along with using aerial photos and tax records, base officials performed a "windshield" survey of property affected by the new study, Goodson said.

"What were they looking for? Incompatible land use," he said. "Mobile homes are not compatible anywhere. Residential, stick built, site built, is not compatible in the 75 decibel noise zone."

At both end of the runways are areas designated as accident potential zones, since landings and takeoffs are the most dangerous parts of a flight. Goodson said the accident potential zones do not change from year to year.

Nothing is compatible in the clear zone, the area closest to the runway, he said. That is why that land is owned by either the city or the Air Force.

Next is an area designated Zone One and then another called Zone Two.

Incompatible uses in Zone One includes all residential, most manufacturing uses and most commercial uses, he said.

"You move to the accident potential zones and you worry about population density," he said. "That zone (One) that is closest to the end of the airfield, Wilber's and McCall's restaurant are not compatible. So both of those properties are incompatible land use pre-dating all of this, still incompatible."

Incompatible uses in Zone Two is all residential greater than two units per acre, restaurants, educational, child care, medical, some manufacturing and some recreational uses, he said.