Kemper County Airport Zoning Commission Minutes
The first meeting of the Kemper County Airport Zoning Commission convened at 3:00pm on Friday, June 6, 2014 at the Kemper County Courthouse Boardroom with Commissioners James Granger, Jodie Wren, Jerry Fox, Gerry Coghlan, and Ezra Hampton present. Board Attorney Henry Palmer called the meeting. He was present at the direction of the Kemper County Board of Supervisors to assist with the organization of the group. To that end he gave the following instructions:
Meetings will be open to the public with date, time, and place announced at least 2 weeks in advance. Minutes will be kept and made available to the public. Although not subject to open meetings law requirements, the Commission should strive to involve the public from the start, and not give any perception that the Airport Zoning Commission was deliberating in secret.
The duties of the Commission are specified in Mississippi Code 61-7-13:
Prior to the initial zoning of any airport hazard area under this chapter, the political subdivision or joint airport zoning board which is to adopt the regulations shall appoint a commission, to be known as the airport zoning commission, to recommend the boundaries of the various zones to be established and the regulations to be adopted therefor. Such commission shall make a preliminary report and hold public hearings thereon before submitting its final report, and the legislative body of the political subdivision or the joint airport zoning board shall not hold its public hearings or take other action until it has received the final report of such commission. Where a city plan commission or comprehensive zoning commission already exists, it may be appointed as the airport zoning commission.
The duties are briefly summarized as: 1) Study the airport flight patterns , noise, and hazards;
2) Write a report to include maps, a recommended ordinance, and reasons for the recommendations;
3) Hold a public hearing on the report; 4) If deemed necessary, amend the report to incorporate public comments; 5) Submit the final report to the Board of Supervisors.
County Supervisors have the duty to look into hazards to citizens and take steps to minimize the risks. State law requires Supervisors appoint an Airport Zoning Commission to study the alternatives. County Supervisors sometimes know that a hazard exists, but choose to ignore it. They at times permit homes or towers, knowing they could elevate the risk of a catastrophic accident. When an accident occurs and people are killed and injured, all who knew but did not act are at risk in a lawsuit, the Supervisors individually, the County as a whole, and ultimately the taxpayer. Citizens have a right to be advised of the extent of risks known to their Supervisors.
Citizens institute governments to protect their common health, safety, and welfare. Governments help protect honesty and fairness on private property sales by recording land deeds through the Chancery Clerk. Clerks may also maintain accurate records of known hazards associated so they show up in a title search.
The Commission has 5 voting members each nominated by a Supervisor and 2 ex-officio or non-voting members, Craig Hitt of the Kemper County Economic Development Agency, and Jim Copeland of NAS Meridian. The ex-officio members have volunteered to help the Commission with expertise and to assist in any way they can and are directed by the Commission.
1) The first order of business is to choose a chairman, vice-chairman, and a secretary,
2) Choose the next meeting date, time, and place
3) Determine if the Commission wants to adopt the existing 1995 Ordinance or start over.
The Commissioners chose James Granger as Chairman, Gerry Coghlan as Vice-Chairman, and Ezra Hampton as Secretary. The next meeting will be held at the Kemper County Economic Development Authority Board Room on Friday, July 11 at 4:00pm. All agreed that it would be best to start with the existing 1995 Ordinance and start over. The Commissioners asked if anyone had a digital copy that could be triple spaced to write in changes. Jerry Fox asked if Henry Palmer could access the Lauderdale County Ordinance for reference. Jim Copeland had both and agreed to provide triple-spaced copies.
Discussion ensued as to whether the existing 1995 Ordinance was still valid in light of “SECTION 15. This ordinance shall become null and void if the Navy removes or upgrades their AICUZ footprint.” Henry Palmer said the Ordinance was still legally valid, no formal action had ever been taken to declare the Ordinance invalid.
Commissioners discussed if the existing Ordinance had ever been enforced. There was concern that any effort to update the Ordinance would be useless if the update would not be enforced, either. Would the Supervisors commit to making the efforts of the Commission effective and enforceable? Henry Palmer explained that the Supervisors respond to the will of the people. When the attitudes of people change, they will demand that their problems are addressed.
Henry Palmer pointed out that the community places the economic engine of its military base at risk during base closure if it ignores the study recommendations of the military and is not responsible to take actions to protect its citizens. Jerry Fox pointed out that NAS Oceana in Virginia Beach came within a hair of being closed because the city allowed growth until the city surrounded it on all sides. Cecil Field in Florida closed when subdivisions encroached on it.
What about the State building code law? Kemper County has decided not to adopt the State Southern Building Code. Henry Palmer advised that a building code helps to spell out steps in construction that will insulate the residents from noise. Building codes require an inspector and inspection. If a house is not wired properly that may be fine for the owner while he lives there. However it becomes a liability issue when it is sold and later burns down because of faulty wiring. Homes in a high noise area that are not built for noise are a similar issue. What would be done about existing homes? Mr. Palmer responded that existing homes are grandfathered and any new Ordinance would only apply to homes built after the date the Ordinance takes place. Most present agreed that most people feel what they do on their own property is not the government’s business. They want to be free to do whatever they want with their land.
Information on the meetings should be provided to the public through the Meridian Star, WTOK, and the Kemper Messenger.
James R. Moore