City Asks for Updated Noise Map

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Thursday December 22, 2016

South Burlington City Council wants a new noise study to be completed prior to the arrival of the F35s, in advance of a study currently scheduled to take place after the expected delivery in 2019. A full update to the Noise Exposure Maps (NEM) after the new aircraft arrives would not be completed until 2020 or 2021. But since the sound studies are computer generated, it is possible to update the maps now with data from the F35 before the aircraft’s arrival. The city is not asking for a substitute to the current NEM or the planned update, but is looking for a realistic prediction as a planning tool.

When the announcement was made in mid-fall 2016 that 39 additional homes had become eligible for the FAA’s home buyout program, councilors and residents became concerned, both by the sudden manner in which the news was delivered and the lack of clarity around what the program entails. After the council met with Burlington International Airport officials and their consultants from the Jones Payne Group regarding the FAA’s programs, the council has focused on researching both short and long term ramifications for the residents in the immediate area, and on behalf of the city as a whole.

At the December 19 council meeting, a resolution regarding accelerated noise mapping was unanimously approved and will be sent to the airport’s Director of Aviation Gene Richards. The resolution asks that this new modeling occur within the first quarter of 2017 and states that the FAA should take the lead in funding this effort. In a letter to Richards, City Manager Kevin Dorn noted that initial conversations with the managers of Winooski and Williston also indicate support for running the model, since their communities are currently and will continue to be affected by an increase in noise.

Dorn told the council that additional resolutions are possible in the future regarding the noise abatement program and he will ask the council to take a position on the details of that plan when they emerge.

After the resolution was passed, the council also discussed items for which they would like additional information such as avigation easements, berms, sound walls, and details regarding where mitigation funding can be used.

Pat Nowak, who serves as the city’s airport commissioner said she thought the public needed to weigh in on mitigation efforts. “If people want to take part in the noise insulation program, it isn’t the council’s responsibility to tell them no,” Nowak said.

Helen Riehle responded that the council needs to do its due diligence regarding both short and long term decision making before they hear from the public. “We need to get the information and understand the ramifications...certainly for the homeowner, but also for the city and its impact on us,” Riehle said.

One of the primary concerns brought forth by residents has been the potential for the noise envelope to expand with the arrival of the F35s in 2019. Questions around whether additional homes will fall into the 65 dnl or above and the ensuing possibility that this could make them eligible for yet another round of home buyouts, have caused distress as residents contemplate their futures. Further complicating the issue are the unclear details of avigation easements, which must be accepted along with noise mitigation offers. Resident Linus Leavens voiced his concerns about avigation easements and their trade-offs for accepting the noise mitigation improvements. He said residents could be unknowingly “swindled out of equity in their homes by naively accepting $6500 of window and doors.”

South Burlington’s representatives to the Airport Sound Committee will meet to review the council’s discussion and directives to develop clarity around information that will be brought back to the entire council for future deliberation.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent