New Airport Noise Map Is Not Expected to Lead to More Home Demolitions | Off Message

New Airport Noise Map Is Not Expected to Lead to More Home Demolitions


Air Force F-35 - FILE
  • File
  • Air Force F-35
A new noise exposure map adjusted for the coming arrival of F-35s at Burlington International Airport is not expected to trigger any home demolitions.

"I don’t anticipate homes being removed," airport aviation director Gene Richards told Seven Days Wednesday.

The map will be released to the public during an airport open house from 5 to 7 p.m. on May 29. The City of Winooski will host its own open house the following day from 5 to 7 p.m. at the O'Brien Community Center.

Richards declined to release a copy of the noise map Wednesday, saying it was still in draft form. Seven Days has filed a public records request for the document. 

Residents who live in the flight path have eagerly awaited the updated noise study. 

The F-35s are expected to be considerably louder than the recently retired F-16 jets, and they are scheduled to arrive in September. The new map could have different "noise contours" than previous Federal Aviation Administration maps. 

Concern about noise goes back decades and ramped up in the heated public debate about basing the F-35s at the Vermont Air National Guard. Its hangars are across the runway from the commercial passenger terminal at the airport.

Although located in South Burlington, the airport is owned and operated by the City of Burlington. Over the years, the airport has purchased and demolished more than 145 homes in South Burlington under an FAA-funded program to compensate homeowners when airport noise is deemed intolerable under federal standards.

Some homeowners were happy to be bought out. But critics, including members of the South Burlington City Council, said the demolitions wiped out a coveted stock of affordable homes close to jobs, shops and schools. In some cases, even newly constructed homes were slated for teardown. 

On Wednesday, Richards emphasized that his boss, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, has gone on record saying the airport would try to avoid any more demolitions.

“I think this administration has been pretty straightforward that they have no wish to remove any more homes,” Richards said.

The new map will make some homes eligible for soundproofing grants. If the airport were to purchase any homes down the road, it would be on a temporary basis only, Richards added. "If somebody didn’t want to have their home soundproofed, and they wanted to sell it, and it was part of the [grant] program, then we would consider buying it, insulating it and putting it back on the market," he said.

Once the public has a chance to study the new noise projections, the next step is to apply for FAA grants to soundproof eligible homes. The money would be dispersed in 24 to 36 months, Richards said. 

Chamberlin Elementary School, just a few blocks from the airport, is also affected by jet noise. It would likely qualify for installation of a ventilation system and air conditioning so that its windows and doors can stay closed to keep out the flight noise.

However, according to an April 30 letter from airport deputy director of aviation Nic Longo to South Burlington schools superintendent David Young, the district must commit to pay 10 percent of the cost in order for the airport to seek FAA grant funding.

Young updated the South Burlington School Board on the issue Wednesday night. The board is weighing the matter, he said via email Thursday. As of now, there is no firm estimate on what the city's share would be, he added. 

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