Newly planted gass grows in a park-like setting where houses once stood on North Henry Court.

Airport Committee Addresses Noise and Neighborhood Land Use

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Thursday October 01, 2015

The last house in the home removal project in the airport neighborhood has been demolished, and the final inspection is scheduled. But planning for the future of this changing area of South Burlington is nowhere near finished.

In the months succeeding the May 27 community forum, the Chamberlin Airport Planning Committee (CNAPC) has continued to work with the overarching themes that arose during the meeting and have included additional talking points for further research.

Two meetings in July focused on identifying points made during the community forum under the four major themes (noise, land use, mobility/connection, and affordability/community) and investigating additional issues identified by the CNAPC, to be included in the list.

The committee returned to the airport in mid September to review information from the July meetings. Committee members also worked through possible scenarios for the next community forum, to share with consultants.

Noise Contour Map

Senior Regional Planning Commission Lee Krohn started off the meeting by answering the question of what other airports in similar scenarios have done. Committee staff looked at dozens of different airport study reports, and discovered two common themes: acquiring and/or moving homes and soundproofing homes. In some cases, airports have made operational changes to help mitigate noise.

Krohn announced that the new noise contour map study is underway; the airport will have a document for public review and comment toward the end of this year and will aim to submit it to the FAA by the new year. If the 65 decibel line moves, the airport’s intention is to consider expanding soundproofing of additional homes by applying for grant funding. The airport does not intend to buy more homes.
In response to George Maille’s question of what noise model will be used for the contour map, which includes military and civilian flight patterns, Krohn replied: “The model they intend to use puts greater weight on military flight patterns than the prior model. So if one is concerned about whether they’re taking into account the fullest range of the types of noise, my take on that is that this weighs it more on the noisier side than the prior model did.”

Future Land Use

Krohn had an answer for land use of the new buffer land created as a result of the demolition project. The land is owned by the airport, and it’s not public parkland, but the public can access it for passive use. In terms of landscaping and paths, the airport does not intend to add additional landscaping, but it is committed to maintenance of the land.

However, if the airport decided to build a shed or other building structure on its premises, it would have to follow city zoning regulations, which require landscape plans. The landscaping could be used in the buffer area, and it would FAA-approved because it’s an airport use, Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner explained.

But what if the city wanted to purchase parkland and develop it for passive recreation, committee member John Simson asked. Could it be done?

Krohn explained that the airport could choose to sell the land, but that at this time, “buying that land at the price the FAA would find acceptable is cost prohibited for any kind of use that would be permissible.” In other words, the airport would have to sell it for the fair market value of what it paid to purchase the land and home.

Committee members reached a consensus that they would like an official list of FAA-approved uses for the land to help erase the guesswork. Staff said they will have information for the next meeting.

On the topic of sale, a land swap with the airport and city could be possible as well, if it works for both parties and is lawful under FAA rules, Krohn added.

Following the summary, the committee segued to building possible scenarios for the next forum. Staff put together a list of all the talking points, and the committee’s task was to filter them into three different scenarios. The committee decided to measure each scenario based on short/medium/long term goals and range in cost.

With a full slate of topics like future land use, noise reduction strategies, civil uses, traffic calming, and aesthetic improvements, the committee stored topics under appropriate scenarios.

Items like simpler traffic calming tactics or improving street lighting were identified under scenario one (short-term and low cost). Others, such as expansion of Airport Drive to Airport Parkway or a potential program for soundproofing homes, would be stationed under scenario 3 (long-term and/or higher-cost).
Other topics may actually straddle scenarios, such as rerouting traffic and disconnecting neighborhood streets (scenario two or three).

Through this process, other ideas stemmed from those listed, such as amending “civil uses (if school closes)” to a multi-use proposal (school and community), to eliminate the assumption that the school will close and have a plan for whether it does or not, Carmine Sargent, the committee’s chair, suggested.

The evening’s session results will be forwarded to the consultant, Resource Systems Group (RSG). Marc Companion requested that the consultant’s subcontractor with expertise with airport-neighborhood relations be present at the next meeting to present what tools can be used for mitigation opportunities.

The committee will meet with the consultant to review the work from the September meeting, and when a structure is readily made, a second community forum will be warned.

The CNAPC is a 15-member committee that was formed under the direction of city council after the city received state and regional funding for neighborhood-airport planning. After committee meetings and three community forums, the committee will create a report and provide recommendations to the South Burlington City Council and the South Burlington Planning Commission to review and process by February 2016. The report and recommendations will also be shared with the Mayor of Burlington, Burlington City Council and the Director of Aviation at Burlington International Airport.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent