Boeing rezoning request outlines land uses for future expansion

Boeing Co. (upper left) wants to rezone the 466 acres it acquired in December, including the site of the former Trailwood mobile home park (foreground), from several different zoning classifications to a planned development district for future plant expansion activities.

Nearly 80 of the 466 acres Boeing Co. acquired in December are set aside for aircraft manufacturing, according to a rezoning request North Charleston City Council will consider Thursday.

The request outlines the airplane manufacturer's proposed land uses, but Boeing points out in the proposal that the acreage uses are in the conceptual design stage and could change.

The biggest chunk of the land across from Boeing's 787 Dreamliner-making campus on International Boulevard - about 182 acres - would be set aside for car parking and tree-lined perimeter buffer zones.

Boeing currently uses an outlying parking lot at Charleston International Airport for spillover employee parking and shuttles workers across International Boulevard to the plant site.

Aircraft parking and movement as well as parts housing would comprise 126 acres, while the rest of the land would be used for stormwater detention ponds and office space.

The property, leased from Palmetto Railways, an arm of the state Commerce Department, has five different zoning classifications, from multifamily residential to light industrial on 10 different parcels. Boeing is asking that the property be placed in a planned development district to allow the company "the flexibility to expand its operational and physical footprint in the region as an aircraft manufacturer."

A planned development district "is the most efficient way to achieve coherent land use and site development goals for the aircraft-manufacturing campus," Boeing says in its rezoning application.

Land uses could include administration, production, sales, development, distribution, human resources, legal counsel and services provided by subcontractors associated with an aircraft-making operation, according to the rezoning request.

A planned development district also could include coffee shops or cafeterias, dry cleaning pick-up services, child day care, health and fitness facilities, barbershops and salons, newsstands and gift and convenience stores, transit stops, postal facilities, office supply stores and travel agencies. They could be included within Boeing buildings or be free-standing structures. Residential development would be prohibited on the site.

"We're hopeful the City Council will approve the request in order for us to have the ability to develop the property for any potential future use," Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said. The city's Planning Commission voted unanimously in June to rezone the property. City Council meets at 7 p.m.

The planned development district is a way to regulate the land's use so it does not pose a risk of harm to the surrounding community, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said.

"It gives (Boeing) the ability to plan for the future," he said. "We're just excited about the fact that they want to expand."

Details of the planned development district, such as what percentage of the land will be dedicated to manufacturing, can be changed with the permission of the city, Summey said.

Any future expansion will mean more revenue and jobs from plant-related and spin-off businesses. "It's just a win-win," Summey said.

A wetlands mitigation plan filed in December, shows Boeing expanding its flight line of completed 787s from seven to 16 stalls, and nearly tripling the square footage of its existing structures by adding 3.4 million square feet of manufacturing space and 400,000 square feet of administrative and office space, starting in 2016. The location of those structures has not been determined.

Boeing currently has more than 2 million square feet of buildings on its main campus near the airport, according to the company's website.

The wetlands filing shows manufacturing and office structures on the newly acquired parcels south and west of International Boulevard, but Eslinger said at the time the structures were placed there for conceptual purposes and it doesn't mean that's where they will go.

In addition, maps in the regulatory filing show a dual line of 787s emerging in the future from Boeing's final assembly plant, which would be expanded by about two-thirds. The building was designed to grow. Planes currently travel in a U-formation through the assembly line.

When Boeing announced last month that it would build the 787-10 - the largest version in the Dreamliner family - exclusively in North Charleston, Boeing executive Larry Loftis said there were no plans to create a dual assembly line or to add new buildings to support the new aircraft.

Boeing received approval last month from the Army Corps of Engineers for its wetlands mitigation plan, clearing the way for development. About 153 acres of the property are wetlands, much of that left over from phosphate mining on the site early in the last century.

That plan requires the preservation and enhancement of about 3,900 acres - 2,100 of which are wetlands - on three tracts near the Francis Marion National Forest.

The first parcel of the 466 acres acquired in December being developed is the site of the new dual-bay hangar on International Boulevard, where Boeing will paint completed Dreamliners in customers' colors when the building is finished in 2016. Currently, 787s are flown to Texas or California to be painted and returned to North Charleston for delivery to airline customers from around the globe.

Boeing has not announced plans for the rest of the 466 acres.

"We currently have no plans for the property other than the paint facility that we announced last December," Eslinger said.

The site also includes a 120-foot-wide corridor that will become the new airport connector road. It will start on Montague Avenue and continue down a powerline easement between residential neighborhoods and the former Trailwood mobile home park, intersect Michaux Parkway and continue onto the airport perimeter road. The road will be completed in 2017.

In North Charleston, Boeing makes parts for and assembles the 787-8, the base version of its new wide-body passenger jet, as well as parts for the 787-9, a stretch line of the aircraft assembled in Everett, Wash. Starting this fall, workers in North Charleston will begin full assembly on the 787-9. Production of the 787-10 will start in 2017.

Prentiss Findlay contributed to this report. Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or