On behalf of Citizens For Quiet Skies, I would like to speak about the airport in the context of avigation easements.
At the Airport Advisory Board (AAB) meeting in February 2013, the airport manager Tim Barth and Don Burchett with the planning department gave a presentation regarding the proposed West Grange Subdivision. This proposed subdivision was located at the southeast corner of Nelson Road and 75th Street, which is within the Airport Influence Zone.
In the meeting packet memo, Mr. Barth explained that since the early 1990’s the has used an airport disclosure statement to inform home buyers of their proximity to the airport. Mr. Barth recommends that the city transition away from the airport disclosure and instead engage in the use of legally binding avigation easements.
So, what is an Avigation Easement? An avigation easement is a conveyance of airspace over another property for use by the airport. The propery owner has restricted use of their property subject to the easement. The acquired easement rights typically include the right-of-flight of aircraft; the right to cause noise, dust, vibrations, to name a few. The avigation easement on the property “runs with the land”, meaning that future owners are also restricted.
To summarize in plain English, the airport disclosure does not protect the city from being sued for damages from excessive noise. The avigation easement does – it is a legally binding document.
So, what does the home buyer receive in exchange for signing the avigation easement? Example 1 shows 1 dollar in consideration. Example 2 shows ten dollars. For ten dollars, the home buyer signs away their rights to peaceful enjoyment of their land.
At the board meeting, Tim Barth and several board members commented on the proposal.
Mr. Barth said that with the avigation easement, the city has some protection, it doesn’t stop complaints but it protects the city.
Who is “the city.” The dictionary defines a city as “ the people who live in a city.” Was
Tim Barth aiming to protect the people of the city?
Board Member Morgan commented that, because of the numerous complaints, the disclosure was not working well and a stronger document or avigation easement would be in order. Board Member Yates stated that the airport needs to be able to have airplanes come in and out without distractions or disturbances. And finally, board Member DaHarb said it is imperative to support the avigation easement project and move forward … for the city’s protection.
At that meeting, the airport advisory board unanimously passed a motion to support avigation easements. However, it is my understanding that council did not move forward in considering this ill-conceived and nefarious plot to subvert the rights of citizens and homeowners. I hope that Tim Barth’s successor will have a better sense of his role as a public servant.
In my experience talking with a lot of people, residents who live near the airport expect to see and hear some airplanes. But they also have an expectation that there will be reasonable regulations in place to minimize the impact to the community. What we are living with now appears to be a lawless free-for-all where anything goes.
I believe the City has two viable choices for managing the future of the airport.
- Adopt a comprehensive noise abatement plan that includes mandatory limits on skydiving operations and addresses other local concerns, for example touch-and-goes and helicopters. These limits may include reducing access to airport property for use as a parachute landing area – land which is currently being given away for free.
- Close the airport.
Those are the choices. The current path is completely unacceptable and we cannot continue along the current path. We can either adopt reasonable regulations and manage the airport responsibly or close it.