Council Says No to F35 Appeal

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Thursday October 06, 2016

In June of this year, the South Burlington City Council voted 3-2 to join the F35 NEPA lawsuit as amicus curiae or ‘friend of the court’. The debate over whether to join the F35 NEPA lawsuit had been ongoing, with tensions present on both sides of the debate. Now that the Federal District Court has rendered a decision in favor of the Air Force, and an appeal has been filed by the plaintiff, councilors discussed whether or not to pursue amicus or plaintiff status once more.

The city had joined the lawsuit as amicus curiae in order to acquire additional information regarding noise, and health and safety impacts associated with the basing of the F35, slated to arrive in South Burlington in 2019. The decision was tabled several times since June 6, to allow for additional community feedback which the council received via phone calls, e-mail, letters, and in person.

Last week, the city’s attorney provided council members with an outline of options and deadlines for the council’s further participation, none of which required great urgency. Meaghan Emery said that she would prefer to table the discussion until after the November 8 TIF vote and didn’t see any disadvantage to doing so, while Pat Nowak urged the council to bring the matter to a final conclusion. Likewise, Tim Barritt and Tom Chittenden were not in favor of continuing participation, with Chittenden suggesting a focus on efforts to enhance communication between the airport and neighborhood.

Helen Riehle, who participated in the meeting via phone said she thought to join the suit once again would engender some cost and thought [winning] it would be a “real long shot.” Riehle noted she would rather spend that energy on what’s happening with the FAA home buyout program and noise mitigation efforts.

The October 3 city council meeting was attended by a few community members who were in attendance to hear the discussion. One public comment was made by former City Councilor Rosanne Greco, who encouraged the council to take some time to consider their options. Greco said she was in favor of joining as amicus or as a plaintiff and pointed out that this decision will have long consequences including the ill effects of the F35 already made known through the EIS (environmental impact statement). “This lawsuit is our only chance of not making that happen, Greco said, adding “We don’t take on the issues because we think we will win, we take on the issues because it’s the right thing to do.”

Pat Nowak made the motion to discontinue the pursuit of appeal in any form. In a 3-2 vote with Nowak, Chittenden and Barritt voting for discontinuation, and Riehle and Emery voting against the motion, it was decided that no further involvement would be pursued, ending the council’s participation either as amicus or a plaintiff in the lawsuit going forward.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent