Joint Land Use Study targets base, civilian cooperation
It may be called the “Sound of Freedom,” but sometimes that sound can get pretty loud in areas around Cherry Point and its training areas.
Noise is just one way Cherry Point directly affects area residents, and it’s just one aspect of the Cherry Point Joint Land Use Study. The plan is an effort to identify potential conflicts between base operations and surrounding communities and to figure out how best to solve them.
The goal is to allow military operations that are key to the defense of the country – and crucial for the area economy – with as little impact on residents as possible.
The biggest issue around Cherry Point and its auxiliary landing fields and training operations is potential encroachment or large-scale development on the outskirts of military areas.
“The JLUS process is fostering a good working relationship among the military installations and all neighboring communities to act as a team to prevent or curtail encroachment issues associated with the military mission,” said Steve Player, project development manager for The Wooten Company, a firm hired to create the new Cherry Point land-use plan. “Encroachment means incompatible uses, uses that don’t necessarily go along with what the mission requirements are, and those encroachments can be on land, in the air, on water and other resources that could impact the military’s mission.”
One of those encroachments could be windmill farms or other tall structures that could impact flight operations. While Craven, Pamlico and Carteret counties have rules governing tall structures, they are all different. The land-use plan will recommend a consistent standard.
“We think that is probably a good step in the right direction as the Department of Defense looks at potential missions for Cherry Point down the road,” Player said.
The plan will also look at development of private property in accident potential zones near runways.
“High density development is not a compatible use in association with the runways, the clearways and the accident potential zones that are immediately adjacent to the air fields, so we are looking at recommendations to reduce the density so that if an accident does occur, it would be less impactful,” said Player.
On the water, restricted areas around the BT-11 and BT-9 bombing ranges in the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound have conflicted with commercial fishermen trying to make a living as well as recreational fishermen and boaters. Earlier this month, the military temporarily expanded the prohibited areas around those ranges for the first time under new rules, rules that drew protests from fishermen and boaters.
“We are looking at suggestions and recommendations that would increase communication and decrease the conflict between the commercial and recreational fishermen and the mission that the Marine Corps has for those two air-to-ground bombing ranges,” Player said.
The plan will also explore infrastructure, such as the ability of area roads to handle increased military missions, and well as restrictions on the intensity of outdoor lighting near runways.
The study will also look at military operations, such as a 500-foot floor protocol for aircraft except when landing and taking off to help reduce noise levels.
The study is also looking at mobile homes in accident potential zones.
“We’re looking at measures to discourage mobile home development, but also to provide incentives for those owners to perhaps relocate to another area away from the danger zones,” Player said.
And then there’s the noise.
“I live right by the base and every day those airplanes come right over my house,” said Theron McCabe, a Craven County commissioner “Sometimes if I’m on the telephone, I’ve got to get off it until they go by. It makes a lot of noise, but it’s good noise.”
And that noise will be changing as the Marine Corps transitions from the AV-8B Harrier to the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, which is considered to be louder, beginning in 2023.
“The new noise contours of the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will cover some areas that haven’t been covered before,” said Tyler Harris, community liaison for Cherry Point. “… There are areas where it’s quieter and there are areas where those noise contours are louder as well.”
Havelock residents within the Air Installation Compatible Use Zone around the base are subject to sound attenuation regulations for new buildings and some additions to existing structures, so a widening of sound contours for the new jet could mean that more residents are affected.
“It could also mean them not having to do it in the future where one is minimized,” Harris said.
Areas around Bogue Field in Carteret County, including the towns of Emerald Isle and Bogue, could also be affected, Harris said.
Player said what should be on the forefront of the minds of all is the $2 billion annual economic impact the base and Fleet Readiness Center East aircraft repair and maintenance facility have on the region.
“We hope that the impact will be very positive from an economic perspective because what we are doing is enabling Cherry Point to carry out its current mission and its future missions and other missions down the road,” he said.
He said the goal is to make Cherry Point the best air base it can be while making the surrounding communities the best places to live.
“We’ve been told that Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point has become a very desirable assignment for the Marines because of the quality of life in the surrounding communities,” Player said. “We want to continue to enhance those activities that make this a very attractive place for the Marines to come. Probably most of all we want to make sure that what we recommend makes sense, that it’s practical.”
Public comments will be taken through the end of the year and can be done online at www.cherrypointregionaljlus.com. The study is expected to be released in the first half of next year.