Sound Commission Hears Airport Updates, Dec. 5 Public Hearing Set

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Thursday September 13, 2018

The airport’s Sound Mitigation Committee is up and running again after grant funding came through for revised Noise Exposure Maps — pushing out the timeline for the Noise Compatibility Program update.

The committee, chaired by airport Deputy Director of Aviation Nic Longo and co-chaired by Director of Aviation Gene Richards, includes a variety of stakeholders who meet to discuss existing and potential effects sound has on the region and to collaborate toward creating solutions.

Noise Exposure Maps and Noise Compatibility Timelines

Earlier this year, the airport received FAA grant funding to update the Noise Exposure Maps (NEM), which are computer-modulated maps that display average levels of sound illustrated by contours. The maps will include 2018 current data with the F-16C and a 2023 forecast year map with F-35A operations.

Properties that fall within a 65-decibel day/night average sound level (dB DNL) contour of the airport’s operations are considered eligible to participate in the Noise Compatibility Program (NCP); there is an NCP Technical Advisory Committee working on updating the program with new land use measures such as a home insulation program. Both the NEM and NCP are part of a larger federal program known as the Part 150 Study.

The airport has again tasked Harris, Miller Miller and Hanson (HMMH) as the consultant to work on the project. The new contours will be shared with the committee on Tuesday, Dec. 4, and a public hearing will be scheduled for Monday, Dec. 5. The public comment period will last about 45-60 days. In the weeks leading up to the public hearing, the airport will meet with affected municipalities.

Also in December, the airport intends to rekindle all the uses proposed in the updated Noise Compatibility Program. The current NCP is approved for land acquisition and demolition. After losing 200 homes near the airport, the City of South Burlington has urged the airport to cease and expand to new land use measures. The new land use measures requested include sound barriers and buffers, Residential Sound Insulation Program, Sales Assistance (owner sells home with airport assistance), Purchase Assistance (sale made directly to airport for fair market value), Purchase of Avigation Easements, and Land Acquisition and Relocation.

The Noise Exposure Maps and NCP will be finalized and submitted to the FAA, which will have 180 days to review the application.

Deed of Easement

Jones Payne Group presented a couple of easement drafts for the committee’s review.

An avigation easement is a legal document between the owner of the Airport Sponsor that is conveyed in exchange for something of value. Easements could state that, in exchange for noise mitigation, like sound insulation or land acquisition, the homeowner gives the airport the right of aircraft flight over or near the property, light emission or other items, or even the prohibition of obstructions, such as trees. An easement can also be in exchange for a monetary sum set by a previously determined lump sum or percent of appraised fair market value; methods and values must be approved by the FAA.

An avigation easement is required for some land use measures like Sales Assistance and Purchase Assurance and highly recommended for others like the Residential Sound Insulation Program. Avigation easements run with the property and continue after the sale of the home. The first draft Deed of Easement shared was a Deed of Easement used by other airports in the New England region. The second draft Deed of Easement was for “noise only.” This version limits the life of the easement should the noise levels increase beyond the current map. Easement language will be submitted with the plan.

Chamberlin Acoustical Testing

Acoustical testing was completed at Chamberlin School on Aug. 15-17. Speakers projecting noise were placed outside, and a sound measuring device was used inside to determine the decibel level in classrooms and other areas of the school. A few old windows revealed the presence of asbestos and PCBs. The removal of these window units will be funded by the FAA grant received with the help of the airport. The grant is approximately $75,000 and was conducted by the airport’s consultant, Jones Payne Group. A report will be created, and the airport will submit another grant with construction design.

The goal is to receive grant approval and start construction in summer 2019. South Burlington Director of Planning and Zoning Paul Conner, who also sits on the committee, asked if sound mitigation (general) was a long-term strategic Capital Improvement Plan commitment, much like the home buyout program; Longo confirmed it was.

BTV Airport Projects Update

The extension of Taxiway G, intended to help reduce noise levels for residents, will continue through the end of the summer. The airport is realigning Taxiway G to run parallel with Runway 15/33, which pushes the new taxiway closer, about 150 feet away from the airport neighborhood. Relocating Taxiway G follows the construction of Taxiway K. Together, these taxiways connect to become a long taxiway parallel with Runway 15/33. A stormwater retention area will hold 22 million gallons of water over the course of the year. The final phase for the $10 million project is scheduled to be completed in 2020.

A Master Planning Committee will be created as a regional advisory group to function over the course of two years. For operations, the airport saw a 19 percent increase in passengers in July.

The next Sound Mitigation Committee has yet to be determined.

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SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent