Thursday June 22, 2017
The Burlington International Airport hosted an open house session June 14, kicking off the official public process for the Noise Compatibility Program.
The Noise Compatibility Program (NCP) is part of a larger federal regulation known as the 14 CFR Part 150 Program, a voluntary program that assesses and minimizes noise from the airport. The airport has participated in the program for over 30 years.
The plan has long been associated with land acquisition and demolition of homes, which has changed the character of the surrounding neighborhoods and resulted in a loss of affordable housing for South Burlington. The city has lost nearly 200 homes, 39 homes are eligible in the current buyout program, and over 900 homes identified in the Noise Exposure Maps (NEM) are eligible to participate in the noise mitigation program.
The plan was last updated in 2008, and Burlington notes that it is seeking to transition away from land acquisition/relocation and toward other land use measures. The new NCP will be based on the 2020 Forecast Conditions Noise Exposure Map and include public input. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will evaluate noise mitigation options based on technical feasibility, impact to residents, cost, and schedule.
Even though the airport already has grant approval for an updated NCP, the FAA is requiring the airport to first complete the land acquisition program. Jones Payne Group, the consultant hired for the existing and future NCP, has been in contact with homeowners of the eligible 39 properties regarding appraisals and sales.
“We are continuing to work with volunteer homeowners on the acquisition program, and we will strive to finish that program this summer so we can move on with our broader discussion of the Noise Compatibility Program,” explained BIA Director of Planning and Development Nic Longo at an Airport Sound Committee meeting held June 13.
Unlike the formal presentations and panel discussions of the past, the open house served as an informal setting for community members to have more personal conversations with professionals.
There were three major stations, each with an expert — namely those from Jones Payne Group, HMMH (Noise Exposure Maps consultant), and airport staff. Unbeknownst to many, Richard Doucette, FAA Environmental Program Manager in the Planning and Program Branch, New England Region Airports Division, was also present. This is Doucette’s second visit to Burlington from Boston; he previously attended a public Q&A panel session at the airport in February.
One station covered the list of potential land use measures for public consideration beyond land acquisition:
• Residential Sound Insulation Program: Residential properties and eligible community structures (Chamberlin School) within the 65 dB contour would receive acoustical windows and doors, central air conditioning and ventilation, crack and seal, and ceiling/closet/wall modifications. Pre and post-acoustical testing is included.
• Sales Assistance Program: help the homeowner with the sale of the property on the open market (listed at Fair Market Value), and the airport would provide a differential to assist in the sale of the property if the seller receives an offer less than Fair Market Value.
• Purchase Assurance Program: the airport takes possession of the property at appraised Fair Market Value and resells it on the open market. Unlike the acquisition program, there would be no change in land use, no demolition, and the owner/occupant would not receive relocation benefits.
• Easement acquisition for new development within the noise contours, a real estate disclosure, and noise barriers are other considerations.
Many options require an avigation easement from homeowners in exchange for sound mitigation, which would provide the airport the right of overflight in the airspace above, and in the vicinity of a particular property, including the right to create noise and other effects resulting in lawful operation of aircraft. Easement language will not be drafted until the FAA reviews the NCP.
Another station focused on the schedule, goals, and broad options of the NCP. This involves a timeline for consultant responsibilities, opportunities for public input, and the FAA’s timeline for review. Based on this proposed schedule, a draft NCP document is planned for submittal this fall. A draft NCP will be created with a public review period and public hearing to follow, and a final draft with public comments will be sent to the FAA in early spring 2018. The FAA will have a 180-day review period.
The third station carried the current Noise Exposure Maps, Part 150 history, and estimated population statistics within the 2015 and 2020 NEM contours.
Dialogue varied, some topics were more pointed, others broad, some positive and inquisitive, others were more skeptical.
“This neighborhood is phenomenal for young couples,” said resident Ashley McKinley. “The sound’s a lot, but if I can make it better for someone else, that’s what I support.”
“Do we all want to sell here? I’m curious in how many people in the area actually want to sell and get out. I’m on the fence,” another resident inquired.
Over the course of the update, the Jones Payne Group and the airport will assess public feedback and work on a draft NCP update. Thus far, sound insulation, sales assistance and purchase assurance are the three big programs they are seeking to submit to the FAA, Longo said.
There will be more opportunities for public input before the FAA reviews the plan, said Director of Aviation Gene Richards. “It doesn’t end tonight. It’s not just the website either. You can get a 1-1 with us. This is one way to communicate, but there are a bunch of different ways.”
The airport launched a new website dedicated to the sound mitigation program. The space has information about the NCP update, land acquisition, the sound committee, links, FAQs, and a contact section for additional comments. Visit www.btvsound.com for details.
Noise Compatibility Program Advisory Committee to form
A new Noise Compatibility Program Advisory Committee will be formed in September to provide a venue for stakeholders to have official representation during the NCP process, said Sarah Degutis, project manager at Jones Payne Group. There may be overlap in membership with the Sound Mitigation Committee, but invitations will also be extended to public school districts, Saint Michael’s College, Community College of Vermont, and City of Burlington.
Noise Exposure Map Update
The airport has also been recently approved to submit a grant this year for an updated Noise Exposure Map (NEM), which falls under 14 CFR Part 150. The current maps, 2015 Existing Conditions Noise Exposure Maps and 2020 Forecast Conditions Noise Exposure Maps, were approved December 2015. The original update was scheduled for 2020, but with the 2019 arrival of the F-35 jets, a number of requests have been made to move the date up. City Manager Kevin Dorn is among those pressing for the updated information prior to the arrival of the F-35s in order to plan more effectively for the city.
“That’s something they’ll look at but not definitively fund this federal fiscal year (ends Sept. 30). If they don’t, then we’re already teed up for the next federal fiscal year for them to look at the grant,” Longo clarified.
“We’re working with Jones Payne Group and HMMH on contractual items and pre-grant work that we’re required to do by July 31, the application that will be in to the FAA. Between July 31 and Sept. 30, they will advise us on whether there’s funding and whether they’ll grant the project,” he added.
The FAA will look at funding, whether there’s sufficient F-35 data included, as well as the NCP timeline in making its determination for grant approval. If the grant is rejected, the airport can reapply for May 2018.
Lastly, the Land Use/Reuse Plan–an inventory of acquired parcels and land use plan for each–is being finalized; the airport hopes to have it wrapped up by this summer.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent