Thursday December 10, 2015
At the invitation of city council, Brigadier General Joel Clark and Colonel Patrick Guinee along with Command Chief Brian Marchessault, Major Christopher Gookin, and Captain Dyana Allen from the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG), attended the December 7 meeting for a discussion regarding noise mitigation and the recently released airport Noise Exposure Maps. At a prior council meeting, Meaghan Emery suggested it would be helpful if all stakeholders, the city, the airport, and VTANG could sit down together to discuss concerns. Although a representative from the airport was invited, Director of Aviation Gene Richards submitted a letter to the council informing them he could not attend. He did, however, provide answers to questions councilors had previously submitted.
Monday night’s discussion was scheduled after the November 16 council meeting, when Emery expressed concern regarding the newly released information and the number of residents who are affected by a level of noise that would deem their homes “unfit for residential use.” The new Noise Exposure Maps indicate 609 single-family homes and 352 multi-family homes (individual apartments and condo units) will now be in the 65 dnl zone. Emery called for dialogue and accountability on the part of the airport and air guard; particularly in regard to why a federally mandated Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was not initiated. While councilors were conflicted over whether the conversation should take place that night or at a future meeting, all agreed that more information directly from airport and VTANG representatives would be helpful.
Chair Pat Nowak welcomed the VTANG members and explained the format for Monday evening’s discussion. Council would direct their questions to the VTANG representatives, then the public would have an opportunity to make comments; any questions from the public should be submitted in writing to City Manager Kevin Dorn who will relay them to Clark.
Chris Shaw inquired about additional noise created through simultaneous take offs. Clark said that although the guard can facilitate simultaneous take offs and has practiced that in the past, they now allow a minimum of 20 seconds in between departures in order to mitigate noise.
Megan Emery asked why an environmental impact statement (EIS) was not done in 2008. Clark read from a document stating that it was not required at the time.
Emery said, “2,200 people are in the noise zone that has been deemed unfit for residential use...the noise has real consequences for these people. An EIS has to do with financial impact, quality of life, schools, places of worship, and public gathering places...I’m surprised there was no requirement for environmental oversight.” Emery added that she would like a better understanding of why the threshold for conducting an EIS was not met.
Guinee said that the guard is looking closely at ways to mitigate noise to reduce their noise signature. “We live here too,” he said. He explained that one such practice is to schedule required night flights to occur seasonally when it is dark earlier, and windows are closed. They stagger the take offs and landings of aircraft and try to fly as quietly as possible, while always keeping safety as their primary focus.
Community Noise Committee
Helen Riehle asked if VTANG could envision working with the commercial side of the airport and the community to pursue solutions which are doable for all.
Clark noted that with 1100 airmen on base they are part of the community and cooperative partners who are ready to come to the table and participate. Guinee added, “This is your Vermont Air Guard.”
Emery pursued this concept to gauge VTANG’s willingness to participate in such a process. Clark said the guard would welcome an opportunity to meet regularly with a committee that represented all of the surrounding communities affected by noise; Winooski, Colchester, Williston, and South Burlington.
Emery was heartened to hear of the guard’s support for such a committee and explained that it would be a venue to focus on solutions instead of complaints.
Tom Chittenden asked where the council’s efforts could be best directed at this point. Clark responded that the idea for a committee with all parties present was a solid idea. “It would alleviate a lot of what’s going on if we could all get together to have discussions,” Clark said.
Several Winooski residents offered their comments, primarily regarding noise around homes and whether buyers are being informed that they are purchasing property that lies within the 65 dnl.
Carmine Sargent, South Burlington resident and chair of the CNAPC (Chamberlin Neighborhood Airport Planning Committee) committee thanked Emery for pursuing more information related to noise. Sargent admitted the committee’s work has been challenging since there are so many players. She supported the idea of a noise committee and said, “I hope we can all make this work...noise has to be addressed since it’s the big elephant in the room.”
The November 9 meeting, which presented the new contours of the noise exposure maps, marked the beginning of the public comment period on this issue. Written comments will be accepted until December 10. Comments can be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to 802-863-7947, or mailed to Burlington International Airport, 1200 Airport Drive, #1, South Burlington, VT 05403. Include “NEM Comment” in the subject line.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent