Northern Beaufort County residents who have issues from jet noise to how they can use their property will soon have more options to reach the military’s ear.
More than a dozen people expressed concern over the noise from the growing F-35B program at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort and how their property might be affected in the future during a northern Beaufort County planning committee meeting Monday. A consultant who worked for a year on a plan to implement lane-use recommendations around area military bases laid out a communication plan residents can use as changes are rolled out.
“Hopefully before big decisions are made, your voice will be heard,” said Tyson Smith, with White & Smith Planning and Law Group. “...What I hope we have in place now is that at least once a year (the Marine Corps) will get in front of the public and answer these types of questions.”
The idea is to create a team from local governments, military bases, citizens, Realtors and the business community known as the Military Planning Working Group. Concerns could be brought to the chairman of that group, who could then get answers from the appropriate contact, Smith said.
The Metropolitan Planning Commission, which heard Smith’s presentation Monday, will hold monthly opportunities to hear from the public on military matters. Elected officials, local government staff and the air station’s public affairs office are still outlets for concerns.
“This format is somewhat new,” commission member Bill Harris said. “We want to be able to hear these things and get them to the air station, get them to people who can answer and get you answers.”
A first step will be for the city, town of Port Royal and Beaufort County to adopt new zoning to accommodate the F-35. A communication plan will then be implemented.
Three initial meetings will be planned for Grays Hill, another site near the air station and one in Port Royal near Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Under the plan, each base will host a yearly meeting to answer public’s questions. A website will host relevant documents and eventually would allow residents to look up their property and see whether it falls within noise zones and areas susceptible to airplane crashes.
Almost everyone who spoke Monday noted a connection to the Marine Corps or another branch of the military and said they weren’t opposed to the base or its mission but wanted answers. There is a sense the air station is encroaching on the surrounding community, multiple residents said.
“We need to keep it balanced,” said Jerome Goode, who lives off Bruce K Smalls Drive, “between the rights of the people and the needs of the air station.”