Feeling Sorry for the Airport?
The plan for airport expansion is spiraling out of control. The South Burlington Airport Expansion Task Force voted to deny the airport’s request to rezone airport-owned land in the Chamberlin School neighborhood from residential to airport industrial. If the Planning Commission accepts the Task Force report and recommendation, airport expansion dreams will crash and burn.
The vote followed a public hearing at which not a single person who lives in the Chamberlin neighborhood spoke in favor of the airport’s expansion proposal. Speakers called on the Task Force to deny the request for a zoning change and keep the land zoned “residential.” An article in the South Burlington newspaper, The Other Paper, also revealed “widespread opposition” to the rezoning request. After 14 years of the airport’s assault on its neighbors, first with the F-16 afterburner and now with the F-35, no constituency exists to allow the airport to expand.
The airport can still monetize its land
If you are a big airport supporter staying up late at night worrying about what might happen to the poor BTV airport if it doesn't get its way, stop worrying. You can breath easy. The airport has another way to monetize its 44-acre land holding. Money is practically sitting on the ground outside begging for the airport to take it.
The airport can sell the land for affordable housing with the blessing of the FAA. Most, if not all of its 44-acre landholding in the Chamberlin neighborhood can be monetized for housing if the land remains zoned residential!
FAA restrictions can be met by canceling the F-35
One impediment can be overcome: the airport agreed to certain FAA restrictions on what can be done with that land. But a careful reading of those FAA “grant assurances” shows that hundreds of houses can be built on the 44 acres–if, and only if, the F-35 training flights are canceled.
The FAA rules allow housing to be rebuilt if the noise declines
Under the FAA grant assurances, the airport must "dispose of the land" that was "purchased under a grant for airport noise compatibility purposes, including land serving as a noise buffer," if that "land is no longer needed for such purposes, at fair market value, at the earliest practicable time." The grant assurances also mandate that the "land will only be used for purposes which are compatible with noise levels associated with operation of the airport."
Translation into English
That last sentence means that if the F-35 training flights continue, the Airport cannot build housing and keeps losing money: it will get not one cent of value from its 44 acres. Year after year the airport will hand South Burlington a fat check in-lieu-of-taxes on that land.
But Burlington’s leaders have a way to turn their 44-acre albatross into a 44-acre golden goose. They can order a halt to the F-35 training flights. With that ear- and brain-damaging F-35 training halted BTV airport noise will sharply decline as the remaining civilian aircraft noise is negligible compared to the military jet noise. (Page BR4-30).
With the F-35 abolished, a new “Noise Compatibility Program” map will show that most, if not all, of those 44 acres are “compatible” with residential housing. Under the FAA grant assurances, the airport must then sell the land at fair market value for housing.
Given its center-city location near jobs, schools, and stores, that land is high value for housing. The land will sell, money will come pouring in to the City of Burlington’s coffers, and hundreds of desperately needed affordable houses can be built.
Burlington has the power to order a halt to the F-35 training flights
The City of Burlington owns the airport. Acting as the “airport proprietor,” the city can exercise its court-approved “airport-proprietor authority” to ban aircraft as loud as the F-35 at its airport, so long as the ban applies equally to all such extremely loud aircraft.
The City also has authority to ban the F-35 under its lease agreement with the Air Force because F-35 training in cities flagrantly violates the military’s own regulations, federal law, and Vermont law.
The City also has authority to adopt an ordinance banning routine Vermont National Guard training flights from its airport with any aircraft operating in violation of the military’s own regulations.
A firm decision by the Task Force and the Planning Commission to deny the zoning change and to retain residential zoning gives the airport a strong monetary incentive to return those 44 acres to desperately needed affordable housing. And gives the airport owner, Burlington, a strong monetary incentive to use its power to halt the F-35 training at BTV.
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Write or call your public servants and local news media:
Call or email your favorite local news media reporter
Governor Phil Scott 802-828-3333 Chief of Staff <Jason.Gibbs@vermont.gov>
Vermont National Guard's Complaint Line: 802-660-5379 (Note: the Vermont Guard told a reporter that it received over 1400 noise complaints. But the Guard won’t release what people said).
Instead or in addition, submit your report & complaint to the online F-35 Fall 2021-Winter 2022 Report & Complaint Form: https://tinyurl.com/5d89ckj9
See all the graphs and in-your-own words statements on the F-35 Spring-Summer 2021 Report & Complaint Form (513 responses): https://tinyurl.com/3svacfvx.
See links to the graphs and in-your-own words statements on all four versions of the F-35 Report & Complaint Form since Spring 2020, with a total of 1670 responses from 658 different people.
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