Communities adjacent to military bases frequently experience high levels of noise. Aircraft flights, ordnance detonations, combat engineering demolitions and artillery use are a few of the activities that can disrupt daily life in the vicinity of a military installation. The Department of Defense (DOD) works to reduce these adverse effects by promoting noise education and training, leveraging resources to ensure coordination among the military and other federal agencies, and promoting outreach to those affected by noise from military activities. The Department of Defense established its Noise Program and the Defense Noise Working Group to address the far-reaching effects of noise generated by military activities, understanding that proactive communication and collaborative land use planning in cooperation with state and local governments can reduce or prevent impacts on the military’s ability to carry out its testing and training missions.
5 Things to Know About Noise and Compatible Land Use
Noise is the #1 challenge year after year. Noise generates numerous complaints from residents that can lead to restrictions on military operations. The desire to mitigate noise is a driver of state and local efforts to achieve compatible land use in the vicinity of military installations.
Several DOD programs provide funding for projects that encourage compatible land use, including the Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program, Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (AICUZ) Program, the Navy Range Air Installations Compatible Use Zones (RAICUZ) Program, and the Marine Corps Range and Compatible Use Zones (RCUZ) Program.
Compatible use studies can help jurisdictions focus their limited funds for maximum benefit. These studies produce maps that depict noise exposure levels that align with a common set of land use compatibility guidelines adopted by federal, state and local governments. The studies recommend land uses for surrounding areas based on current and future military activities.
Compatible use recommendations aim to maximize successful land development. Noise management efforts help military personnel provide information and assistance to state legislatures and communities developing land use controls, such as zoning, subdivision regulations, capital improvement programs, building codes, noise disclosure and conservation easements.
Compatible land use is more than noise. AICUZ studies establish accident potential zones (APZ) and inform neighboring communities of risks to safety or other potential impacts of military operations.
State and local land use legislation can minimize negative impacts on military readiness while protecting the health and welfare of neighboring communities. Policy options available to states include ensuring land use compatibility around military installations, airfields and ranges; referencing DOD Compatibility Use Zones (AICUZ, ICUZ, RAICUZ) and the associated recommendations for land use planning; and enhancing communication with the DOD regarding land use changes. Several state examples are listed below.
Arizona requires local jurisdictions to document in their general plans the boundaries of high noise areas as shown in an AICUZ study and the land uses that may be compatible (Ariz. Rev. Stat. §9-461.05).
Arkansas requires certain cities within five miles of an active-duty Air Force installation to enact ordinances that restrict or prohibit uses that may be hazardous to aircraft operation, including those that impair visibility, produce light or electrical emissions, attract birds, provide for structures within 10 feet of runways, or expose persons to noise greater than 65 decibels. (Ark. Code §14-56-426).
Florida law describes a process for enhanced communication and coordination between local governments and military installation commanding officers regarding any potentially incompatible land use. To facilitate this exchange of information, the law requires military representation on local zoning boards (Fla. Stat. §163.3175)
Oklahoma requires that any new land use restrictions or prohibitions within an AICUZ be consistent with current recommendations or studies made by Air Force and Army installations in the state. In interpreting such an ordinance, consideration must be given to protecting public health, safety, and welfare, maintaining safe military and aircraft operations, and assuring the sustainability of military missions (Okla. Stat. tit. 11, §43-101.1).
Virginia lawmakers enacted legislation in 2006 (HB 975) requiring certain localities to establish a program to purchase, condemn or convert incompatible use property and to prohibit new uses or development deemed incompatible with air operations in Accident Potential Zone 1 (APZ-1) and Clear Zone areas.