Airport Rezoning Request Raises Moral and Ethical Issues
On February 17th, the Airport Rezoning Task Force held a public comment session related to the Airport’s request to rezone an 11 acre parcel on Airport Parkway and Kirby Rd Extension from Residential to Airport. This parcel once held homes which the Airport has since demolished. What remains is greenspace which has provided an important buffer between the Airport and nearby homes. During public comment, James Marc Leas made it clear in his presentation, which included a map of Airport property, that the Airport owns many acres, already zoned “Airport” which they could use for the industrial and commercial purposes they have planned. There is no compelling reason for the City to rezone this 11 acre parcel.
During the public comment session on 2/17, many community members expressed a variety of concerns about the rezoning request. The Airport’s request, as well as public comments and other related details can be found here. The Task Force is planning a second public hearing which is yet to be scheduled, but may fall on either March 31 or April 7. If you are concerned about further encroachment of the Airport into the Chamberlin neighborhood, please consider attending the meeting (virtually or in person) and sharing your concerns. You can additionally submit your concerns in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org, thus making your voice part of the public record.
I was present at the public comment session on 2/17, and I read the following statement that I wrote in response to my many concerns about the Airport’s request to rezone the 11 acre parcel:
I addition to a small manufacturing business on Airport Parkway, my Father and I own 14 well-maintained, affordable apartments in the South Burlington Chamberlin neighborhood- which we have owned for about 25 years. Four of these apartments are on Airport Parkway, directly across from the parcels which the Airport is asking to rezone. Our tenants are disproportionately poor or working class families, and are disproportionately minorities and immigrants. The green spaces across the street from them serve as a critical buffer between their homes and the airport.
The Airport indicates that the intent of the rezone is “not to expand into any neighborhood,” but the Airport has already expanded into the neighborhood by demolishing residential homes and now they propose replacing them with commercial and industrial buildings. What the airport has done is the very definition of “expanding into the neighborhood.”
I, and our tenants are impacted daily by F-35 noise and it literally hurts. This State and this City have aided and abetted the Airport as it has perpetrated harm against the citizens of this community. I have watched as the Airport has dismantled great swaths of this thriving community, eliminating 200 affordable housing units in the process, and rendering the rest almost uninhabitable due to F-35 noise.
The airport should be using these open residential lots, not to perpetrate more harm against this community, but to help mitigate the effects of its operations, especially with regard to the F-35. The Airport suggests in its letter that somehow future commercial and industrial development will assist in abating noise. This is statement is absurd and I don’t think any reasonable person would believe this. Impact studies from reputable, impartial parties would provide important data which could become part of the re-zoning decision making process.
In its current Comprehensive Plan, the City notes in its policy framework, an “Enhanced emphasis on quality of life considerations such as neighborhood livability.” I urge you to demonstrate that you stand behind this statement by actively taking steps that protect, not harm the Chamberlin neighborhood. I am asking you to demonstrate that “livability” and “quality” of life are valued in all South Burlington neighborhoods- regardless of level of income.
If the City of South Burlington rezones these residential lots to allow for commercial and industrial development, the City would be allowing the Airport to degrade the habitability for those residents. The City would be actively harming its poor, working class, and disproportionately minority and immigrant residents. By allowing the F35 to fly at this airport, the City has already infringed upon these residents right habitable housing. If the City rezones these lots, it is further infringing upon this right. Weighing human rights against commercial interests should not be a difficult decision
We know that there is a severe shortage of affordable housing in Chittenden County. 200 affordable housing units have already been lost to the Airport. I urge you to demonstrate your commitment to quality affordable housing, your commitment to this community and your commitment to the health and well-being of the human beings who call it home. The airport needs to do a better job making proper use of the 942 acres it owns and the city needs to do its job ensuring a habitable community in the Chamberlin neighborhood. To do otherwise is to assist the Airport in causing even further pain and injury to the residents of this community.
If the city’s goals are to protect its existing affordable housing stock and protect the inhabitants of this thriving community from further harm, it must reject this rezoning request. Furthermore, rejecting this rezoning is only the first step. The City of South Burlington needs to go further and actively seek ways to restore the habitability of the Chamberlin neighborhood by reining in Airport expansion, mitigating the effects of the expansion that has already occurred, and halting F-35 flights at this Airport. The decision to be made here is not a business decision- it is an important moral and ethical decision.
Well said, Miss Adams. Thank you.
Thank you, Ms. Adams, for participating in the hearing and reporting back to the community. I can personally report that adding more "hardscape" to the current vacant lots cannot "buffer" the F-35 sound. On the contrary, in fact. Just come to my house, adjacent to the CoHousing apartment buildings off East Avenue in Burlington, when the F-35s are taking off to the north. We are blasted by the direct sound from the butt-end of the jets from the north, and then all that sound bounces back to us off the apartment buildings that are south of us. What this means is that we have 80-90 dB coming at us from both directions - north AND south. It's like being inside of a cement mixer (but louder).
Put simply, sound waves bounce off anything that does not absorb them. A buffer of hedges and trees is far, far more effective as a buffer than the hardscape of industrial buildings, warehouses, and other buildings. It's bogus for them to say the buildings will provide a buffer.