Resident George Maille filed his appeal of the Administrative Officer's approval to demolish 55 homes near the airport last year.

Questions Over Airport Noise Assessment Continue

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Thursday March 28, 2013

George Maille has lived on Logwood Street for decades.  But in November 2008, the removal of two homes bordering his back yard changed more than his view.  After the two neighboring houses were demolished under the home buyout program funded by the FAA and carried out by Burlington International Airport, all that stood between his home and the noise emanating from the airport were piles of dirt.

Since then, Maille has been pursuing answers to questions about how the demolition of homes in the 65db DNL zone has affected the remaining homes in the area in terms of noise.

After requesting a noise assessment from the Burlington International Airport (BIA) in relation to its accelerated Land Acquisition Program, appealing the Administrative Officer’s approval of BIA purchasing and demolishing 54 houses, conducting individual research, and consulting with legal professionals, Maille found himself in front of City Council last Monday urging a formal assessment of the noise data.

Maille provided the City Council with the background history of communication between South Burlington and the BIA in regard to this topic. In November 2008, the BIA introduced South Burlington to the Noise Exposure Map, its Noise Compatibility Program, and its Land Acquisition Plan, he said. The following spring, 2009, the City Council and BIA made an agreement: the airport would conduct a noise-monitoring plan and present the findings to South Burlington in order to gauge what steps would be necessary to mitigate noise for the existing houses near the airport. The City Council paid for the analysis. In return, the airport would be allowed to accelerate the number of houses (from 10 per year to 20 per year) it buys out annually using Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) funding.

During the fall of 2010, the noise assessment took place in ten 24-hour studies. The baseline study of noise levels (measured in decibels) was completed in front of existing houses as well as behind them, in order to assess standing-structure noise abatement levels. Shortly after, a 150 ft. “living wall” was built along Airport Dr., behind Maille’s Logwood Rd. property.

Fourteen months later, in March 2012, after multiple requests the data was received. Maille is still waiting for the data to be analyzed.

Last Spring Maille appealed the SB Administrative Officer’s approval of BIA’s request to demolish another 54 residential houses near the airport, within the Noise Monitoring Assessment Plan. Demolition of these houses is still under litigation.

The 54 houses make up the bulk of the current 66 dwellings awaiting removal or demolition, according to Stacy O’Connor, Airport Grants Administrator at the BIA. The remaining nine vacant properties are “...planned to be in 2013 removal/demo contract,” O’Connor said. The airport has also received two Land Acquisition Grants for FY 2012, AIP-92 and AIP-94, for a total of 26 dwellings; one of the dwellings has already been purchased and is one of the nine vacant properties.

With the history on the table and data to assess, Maille knocked the ball into Council’s court.

“Common sense tells you that if you have a barrier in front of you, and you take it down, I don’t care what is generating the noise--a car, truck, airplane--it’s going to get to you,” he told Council last Monday. Therefore, the current City Council should strongly consider pursuing the former councilors’ request for an individual noise assessment of the data, Maille said.

Council Chair Pam Mackenzie and Councilor Rosanne Greco agreed on the importance of the information but were concerned about where the analysis would fit into the budget and what they would do with the third party assessment if it were to be conducted.

Maille estimated that the analysis could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

“We know that the FAA money is dried up and that there is probably not going to be any more money coming in for home buyout,” Greco said. “We will have all that data and we will be powerless to do anything.”

Maille disagreed. The airport has the grounds to apply for grants to alleviate noise in the area, but South Burlington needs to be consistent in addressing the need. South Burlington may not control the airport itself, but being the municipality that houses it does give the city power in other aspects of seeking noise mitigation for its citizens.

“You don’t necessarily need to own an airport in order to apply for certain monies,” Maille said.

“I don’t necessarily think $5,000-$10,000 expended on doing an independent analysis of the data is going to do anything more than us working very hard on the relationship with the airport to say as a community, SB would like to partner with you in order to be able to apply for the grants...mitigate the noise...and finish buying out the homes, and doing something in that area that makes it more welcoming,” Mackenzie said.

“I think we’ve got the data,” Greco said. She is sensitive to the intent of an independent assessment but stated that “...maybe our energies would be better used trying to address the real problem.”

Maille will report to Council with a list of points for them to consider in an RFP if they decide to pursue an assessment of the data collected as part of the 2009 agreement.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent