Thursday April 06, 2017
The airport held its first quarterly Sound Mitigation Committee meeting on March 28 to review the Noise Exposure Map and Noise Compatibility timeline and map a strategy for efficient communication with the neighborhood.
This trails the written Q&A session the airport hosted over a month ago when Richard Doucette, FAA Environmental Program Manager (New England Region Airports Division) traveled from Burlington, Mass. to address questions regarding the Noise Compatibility Program (NCP), Noise Exposure Maps (NEMs), and Land Use/Reuse Program.
The committee − which is chaired by Nic Longo, the airport’s director of planning and development, and co-chaired by Gene Richards, the director of aviation − includes a variety of stakeholders to discuss existing and potential effects sound has on the region and to collaborate toward creating solutions.
Last Tuesday marked the third of this meeting’s kind; the first meeting, held last September, was when South Burlington learned of the airport’s Noise Compatibility Program updated grant approval and the Kirby Cottages’ new eligibility under the Land Acquisition Program.
City Manager Kevin Dorn, Planning and Zoning Director Paul Conner, and former Chamberlin Neighborhood Airport Planning Committee member George Maille, were present as members of the committee. Winooski City Manager Jessie Baker, VTANG, Burlington Airport Commission Chair Jeff Munger, and the airport’s consultants, Jones Payne Group and HMMH, were also at the table. Councilors Helen Riehle, Tom Chittenden, and Pat Nowak listened attentively as members of the public.
Land Acquisition Update
The 39 homes eligible under the current land acquisition program have been subdivided into four groups. The first group (Group 1) consists of 11 properties. Of those 11, seven have been acquired, two offers have been accepted, and two offers are outstanding.
Jones Payne Group, the consultant hired to finish out the land acquisition program
and assist with the next Noise Compatibility Update, will be meeting with individual homeowners starting this month for Groups 2-4. Appraisals will begin this month for Group 2, which consists of 10 properties. The airport hopes to complete all appraisals in 2017.
In a presentation led by Sarah Degutis, project manager of Jones Payne Group, the committee reviewed a timeline comparison for the Part 150 Update and Noise Mitigation Program.
The Noise Compatibility Program (which currently includes home buyout and land acquisition) and the Noise Exposure Maps (NEM) as well as the Land Use/Reuse Program, all fall under the FAA’s 14 CFR Part 150.
The Noise Compatibility Program update will focus on land use measures including, but not limited to the following: land acquisition and relocation, sound insulation, sales assistance, purchase assurance, easement acquisition for new development (avigation language has not been crafted yet), real estate disclosure, and sound buffers/barriers. Even though the latter is on the list of possibilities, the FAA and Director of Aviation Gene Richards have gone on record saying that berms in particular are not considered as effective.
Regarding NEMs, Burlington anticipates a change in airport operations with the arrival of the F-35s in 2019, which will trigger the need for an updated NEM.
BTV’s Capital Improvement Program contains a budget for the NEM update to begin in 2019. The FAA stated at the February public meeting that the NEM update could possibly commence earlier in 2018.
In an attempt to get ahead of the curve, South Burlington formally requested funding assistance from the FAA this year. The request was denied. South Burlington also asked the airport if it could leverage existing resources by employing HMMH to help craft an NEM with F-35 data earlier than the 2019 arrival; this request was also denied.
Furthermore, Dorn asked to close the loop regarding unanswered questions to the council resolution that challenged the land acquisition process.
“Our city council passed a resolution asking for a halt to the program. This schedule here, there’s no intention that the program will be halted until the 39 [homes] are bought out,” he said. He added that there has been no formal answer to the resolution.
“It was our understanding that the halt to the program was after the 39,” Longo said.
“South Burlington is thinking the airport just says ‘no,’” Richards said. “Any federal funding we have going would be in jeopardy. Once you’ve defaulted in any way on your grant assurances, it’s not a good thing for the airport and would have repercussions that would be very damaging for the airport.”
Burlington International Airport is one of 50 airports in New England where FAA funding is considered.
As for strengthening communications with the FAA, that prospect is not as bright as Doucette let on at the February public hearing. About 50 minutes in (video online at www.btv.aero “community” page), when asked if the FAA would meet with the South Burlington city staff and council, Doucette encouraged a call to the FAA to set up a meeting.
However, when Dorn requested a meeting with the FAA via email, Doucette responded that he could not receive support to participate in a joint board meeting. He did invite South Burlington representatives to travel to the regional office in Burlington, Mass., which would require a number of resources, such as city staff, councilors, school board, minute-taker, and possibly CCTV to record the meeting.
While in-person FAA communication is up-in-the-air, the Sound Mitigation Committee is planning a strategic procedure for keeping affected municipalities informed; in the meeting, this item was titled “neighborhood pamphlet communication.”
As a preliminary discussion, the committee contemplated the effectiveness of carefully-administered surveys and the need to adapt to different methods of educating the public of major projects.
Baker recommended getting a communication professional involved; the rest of the committee agreed. Dorn suggested inviting Emma Vaughn, Chittenden County Regional Planning commission communications manager, to the next meeting.
The next meeting, tentatively, is Tuesday, June 13, 5:00 p.m. at the Burlington International Airport Conference Room 3. The committee will review a graphic outlining the total number of calls by city (an item scheduled for March 28 but was tabled), ensure VTANG is available for answers, and continue fleshing out a plan for a community communication effort.
SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent