Work begins on policy to limit development around air station

January 22, 2010 

  • What is the AICUZ?

    Stands for Air Installation Compatible Use Zone. The program, started by the Department of Defense, is an attempt to protect the health, welfare and safety from noise and hazards of those living and working near airports and air stations. For instance, the military can create a buffer zone that allows little or no development by acquiring easments and limited ownership of land surrounding its bases.

Consultants from a California planning firm made their first visit to the Lowcountry this week to begin helping local officials shape a program designed to prevent development from bumping against Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.

Bill Fulton, principal with Design, Community & Environment, and his team met Thursday with more than 35 Beaufort County residents who own property in the AICUZ buffer zones around the air station.

The landowners are being asked to participate in a "transfer of development rights" program, in which they would be compensated by local governments for not building on their land.

The TDR program works much in the way the county's Rural and Critical Lands Preservation program does, Fulton told the Northern Regional Plan Implementation Committee on Friday:

• Landowners near the air station -- a low-density area -- sell to local governments the development rights on their property. Homes and buildings already on the property can remain, but the property cannot be developed further. The cost of development rights has yet to be determined, Fulton said. Prices can be determined by the market, set by officials or based on property appraisals, he said.

• The development rights are set aside in a "bank," often managed by a government entity or a nonprofit organization like the Beaufort County Open Land Trust, Fulton said, though an official designee has not yet been named.

• Developers approach the bank to buy the development rights, which can then be used to increase building density for projects in growth areas like the city of Beaufort and town of Port Royal, Fulton said.

Developers also can negotiate directly with landowners to purchase their development rights.

The bank "should not have the monopoly on transactions," Fulton said, adding that cooperation between county and municipal governments also is essential for the program's success.

"Jurisdictions can't change the (development rights') value on their own," he said. "It has to be clear what the density can be without (the rights), and with them."

Ginnie Kozak, planning director for the Lowcountry Council of Governments, said Fulton's report was an interim snapshot of the implementation study his firm has been contracted to complete.

"What you're going to see today is not the finished product," Kozak said.

The council was awarded a $250,000 grant last year from the S.C. Military Task Force to start the TDR program. The task force is a 27-member group that tries to limit development near the state's military bases.

Still to come is a second public meeting when landowners and other interested residents can look over the completed implementation study. That hearing likely will be held in March, Kozak said.

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