F-35 protesters criticize Democrats at VIP fundraiser; GBIC releases report showing F-16 noise hasn’t hurt property values

Editor’s note: Anne Galloway contributed to this report. There is a video of the protest and a copy of the GBIC report at the end of the post.

Protestors voiced their disappointment with Vermont's leaders' drive to bring the F-35 to the state at a Democratic Party Fundraiser. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Protestors voiced their disappointment with Vermont's leaders' drive to bring the F-35 to the state at a Democratic Party Fundraiser. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

About 100 protesters on Thursday night criticized the Democratic party leadership’s support for a proposal to bring the high-powered military planes known as F-35s to the Burlington International Airport. They chanted, sang and speechified as Vermont Democratic Party VIPs walked into a campaign fund-raiser at the Ethan Allen Homestead Pavilion in Burlington.

Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, Congressman Peter Welch and Gov. Peter Shumlin, who protesters expected to attend the fund-raiser, have all said they’re in favor of the proposal. Protesters have said members of the congressional delegation have not agreed to meet with them.

Opponents of the F-35s say the warplanes, which are known to be louder than the F-16s now based at the airport, would impact hundreds of homes in the Winooski and Burlington areas.

Earlier on Thursday, the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation released a report that determined that noise from the F-16s had no adverse impact on property values inside the 65 DNL zone, or the area right around the airport. (The report is posted at the end of this article.) Military officials have said the F-35s won’t be significantly louder.

Juliet Buck, a blogger and activist, takes the microphone at a protest outside a Vermont Democratic Party fundraiser on July 19, 2012. Photo by Taylor Dobbs

Juliet Buck, a blogger and activist, takes the microphone at a protest outside a Vermont Democratic Party fundraiser on July 19, 2012. Photo by Taylor Dobbs

Juliet Buck, an activist and blogger said she grew up as a Democrat and voted for Sanders, Welch and Shumlin, but that she wouldn’t do it again unless they changed course.

“All of these men have the time to stop, look at the evidence, and if nothing else take a step back and ask for more transparency and honesty in the process,” she said. “If that happens, Burlington will not get this plane.”

Among the VIPS on the other side of the field from the protesters were Democrats Attorney General Bill Sorrell, Secretary of State Jim Condos, Lt. Gov. candidate Cassandra Gekas and Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan.

Jake Perkinson, chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, spoke with some of the demonstrators before the event started to gather feedback.

Democratic Party Chairman Jake Perkinson spoke with some protesters before the party's fundraising event began. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

Democratic Party Chairman Jake Perkinson spoke with some protesters before the party's fundraising event began. VTD Photo/Taylor Dobbs

“Clearly there’s a lot of people that are impassioned about this issue,” Perkinson said. Neither he nor the Democratic Party has weighed in on the debate, and any resolution within the party must be submitted for review at least 10 days before a meeting. The party’s next meeting is Saturday, and no resolution regarding F-35s was submitted in advance.

While the party itself has been silent on the issue, TJ Donovan said it’s close to home for him – though not so close that he hears the F-16s overhead. Donovan said his cousin just bought a duplex in Winooski and feels threatened by the plan to bring F-35s into Vermont.

Glancing across the field at the protesters, Donovan saw a cousin and some other familiar faces.

“I know a lot of these folks,” he said. “They’re good people. It’s a tough issue for a lot of people, I get it. As I said, I’m looking at one of my cousins over there, so I get it. You’re talking about people’s home values. This is personal. This is people’s retirements.”

GBIC says data shows noise has no adverse impact on homes near airport

The Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation issued a report on Thursday that indicates property values have not been affected by noise from the F-16s or commercial airplane traffic from Burlington International Airport.

The report is based on properties that fall in the 2006 contour map of the 65 DNL zone. GBIC compared property sales data from the DNL zone with values in the larger Chittenden County area.

The study is based on information from a comprehensive database of multiple listing service sales from 2002 to the present. It includes data from 54 condo units in the Winooski Falls residential development project and the Burlington International Airport buy-back program of about 200 properties South Burlington. The Winooski Falls data did not include properties valued at more than $400,000.

The federal home loan guarantee program would not be affected by the 65 DNL line, according to the report.

Frank Cioffi, executive director of GBIC, ordered the study because he said “I thought someone ought to do an analysis of sales because the facts have to be out there.”

“Our concern in South Burlington and Winooski is we’re looking at the most affordable housing available in Chittenden County,” Cioffi said. Many of the residents include retirees and young families.

“For retired folks that’s their life savings,” Cioffi said. “Some were really concerned and opponents were getting them worked up about it.”

GBIC supports the basing of the F-35s at the Burlington airport and launched a website vermontf35.com to disseminate information about the proposal.

“Eleven hundred jobs is significant,” Cioffi says. “When you analyze how vital the Burlington International Airport is to employers in this county and state — that airport remains a vital flow of commerce into Vermont. It gets people and products out into the world.”

Cioffi says the presence of the Vermont Air National Guard at the airport helps to defray infrastructure development and operations costs for the airport. The Guard also provides emergency supplies and protection for the airport that is worth about $2.5 million a year. The F-35 would bring $53 million to the local economy, he said.

CORRECTION: We originally reported that Gov. Peter Shumlin was scheduled to attend the fundraiser. This was not the case. Protesters expected him to attend.


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Comments

  1. Liz Leyden :

    It’s the most affordable housing in Chiittenden county, that’s why it’s considered expendable. If the F35s were slated to fly over the million-dollar houses in South Burlington’s Southwest Corridor, the plan would have been scrapped in 5 minutes. Money talks.

  2. Dave Bellini :

    I work in Winooski. The current jets are sometimes deafening if one is outside on East Street, Winooski or parts of Colchester Avenue, Burlington. Conversations have to end or move to the inside of a vehicle, with all the windows rolled up tight. I would hate to live in this area right now, given the current noise level. Some will say it’s only during take offs and landings but that would get extremely old. Bringing in aircraft that is “4 times as loud”, I predict will greatly reduce the quality of life for a small amount of families. I think some people will be very unhappy and the noise louder than expected.

    The Air Force has steadfastly refused to perform fly-overs with the new jets so citizens can judge for themselves, just how loud the new jets will be. This refusal does not foster trust in the Air Force and makes the Air Force less credible. To misquote an old expression: “What is the Air Force so afraid of?”

    • Brent Jarvis :

      “small amount of families”?? The Air Force report states that 1300 properties in Winooski, So. Burl and Williston would experience noise levels exceeding federal limits.

      And who could possibly believe that the values of these properties would not be affected? Especially since owners are, by regulation, required to disclose this fact before selling.

  3. Christian Noll :

    Its not just the highly adverse affect the F-35 will have on our property values but also the many unknown negative affects on our personal health and increased stress levels.

    Please don’t tell me it won’t have any adverse affects on our health.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if our advanced civilization created “1,100 jobs” for peace, both literally and politically?

  4. George Cross :

    The GBIC study is a joke. The GBIC Board of Directors should be embarrassed to have their Executive Director release such a sham. To suggest that airport noise has not degraded property values in the last 10 years while the airport has been purchasing dozens of properties and tearing them down because they are in the “noise zone” , is ludicrous. To suggest that louder noise from the airport will not further devalue properties when the Air Force’s own report states that thousands of homes are in an area not compatible with human habitation indicates that the GBIC study is worthless. The GBIC owes an apology to the good citizens of South Burlington and Winooski who face potential economic chaos due to the overzealous actions of its staff and members.

  5. The Guard is carefully avoiding the other study in USAF’s EIS that says home prices have been negatively effected by noise.
    Additionally, the study they keep referring to is deeply flawed:
    -the study fails to consider that home sellers will now be required to disclose that their property is in an area deemed, “incompatible with residential use” which may affect the availability of Federally backed mortgages and mortgage insurance
    -The 65 DB DNL line (used in this study) is just some nebulous abstract measurement of average noise. A home narrowly on one side of the line versus a home just on the other side of the line isn’t going to show depreciation. The comparison should be made between home value appreciation/depreciation near the airport versus appreciation/depreciation in communities far from the airport on the other side of town.
    The Guard is losing credibility by the day, picking apart the very study they’ve held up for 2 years as the end all be all determinant of the appropriateness of this basing. It doesn’t say what they want to hear so they are now just cherry picking data and suggesting they can somehow mitigate the noise of 115 dB aircraft taking off.
    Must add, those planes take off how ever often and whenever the hell they want. “Twice a day 4 days a week” is complete fantasy. 3 sorties took off before lunch yesterday, for the love of pete!

  6. Cheryl Pariseau :

    I have concerns with the GBIC report because they included housing cost associated with the B.I.A. buy back program. This program buys back house at fair market value. That does not mean that these house would actually sell for that price, so it leads me to believe that this report is severely flawed.

  7. Jed Guertin :

    It would be important to know if the GBIC:

    1. Informed members of the affected communities, especially those who were opposed to the plan to be a party to have direct input to the report process. I doubt that that was the case.

    2. If they did invited members of the affected communities, especially those who had a background in research, or at a minimum had a working background in data analysis, like Ms. Greko, to be involved at the beginning.

    This sounds like a garbage in, garbage out report. The GBIC is equally as biased as any person in the affected noise zones. The GBIC report probably has more holes than good swiss cheese. And one of them is the fact that the study was done in a GBIC vacuum.

    The GBIC has opened up a new can of worms. It suggests that before any decisions is made an independent un-bias study needs to be done,
    Yes, there are jobs involved. The key is to make sure that we as a society are paying our fair share of the real cost of those jobs. If that means compensating those who live in the affected zones, by what ever fair means can be devised, then let’s do it.

    But do it openly and correctly. Someone like Doug Hoffer would be excellent in developing and implementing such a study. I doubt it would require a lot of time.

  8. George Cross :

    “Garbage in and garbage out” is exactly what the GBIC study is. The number of sales in the 65dbl area in S. Burlington jumped significantly during the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 leading one to believe that Ms Pariseau is correct, the properties purchased by the airport for destruction were included. Those properties can not legitimately be used for the statistical purposes of the so-called “study.” The number of sales in Winooski in the subset area are so few that one can not use the data for any creditable statistical purpose. The condominiums in Winooski are so different from any other residential units in Winooski that they must be considered outliers and are not useable for the stated statistical calculations. Garbage in, garbage out! Junk statistics does not an argument make.

  9. The whitewash is on-going. The Air Force is refusing to do some landings, take-offs and maneuvers near the airport to demonstrate to the people within about a mile of the runway that all is OK and there is nothing to worry about….

    Europe is requiring that commercial planes are designed to be quieter. Boeing and Airbus are bragging about how much quieter their planes are, and here comes along the Air Force and make things worse. Insanity run amok.

    This is not about defending the US. This is about federal money coming to Vermont to fund about 300- 400 operations and maintenance jobs in the Greater Burlington Area. That is why government leaders Leahy, Sanders, Welch, etc., are for it.

    Those planes need not be in Burlington, Vermont, to defend the US. They should be in forward bases, such as northern Maine, to defend the US from any enemy fighters coming from Europe.

    Typical rural nighttime ambient noise is 20-40 dBA and urban residential nighttime noise is 58-62 dBA. Higher noise levels adversely impact restful sleep of people; restful sleep is a basic requirement for good mental and physical health.

    Doubling the sound pressure level, SPL, increases the dB instrument reading by 6 dB.
    For example: If at 800 uPa (micropascal) the SPL = 20 log (800/20) = 32 dB, at 1600 uPa it is 38 dB, and at 3200 uPa it is 44 dB, where 20 micropascal is the lowest SPL the human ear can sense, it is used as the reference pressure.
    http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/noise/health_effects/soundpropagation.html

    The increase in SPL = 115 dBA (F-35) – 94 dBA (F-16) = 21 dBA. This appears to be an innocent number, but it is anything but.

    A 6 dBA increase means a doubling of SPL
    A 12 dBA increase means a quadrupling of SPL
    An 18 dBA increase means 8 times SPL
    24 dBA is 16 times; 30 dBA is 32 times; 36 dBA is 64 times; 42 dBA is 128 times, 48 dBA is 256 times, 54 dBA is 512 times.

    A nighttime fly-over of an F-35 would have a 115 dBA – 60 dBA (nighttime residential) = 55 dBA greater sound; such a sound increase is sure to wake up everyone, except the dead.

    A nighttime fly-over of an F-16 would have a 94 dBA – 60 dBA (nighttime residential) = 34 dBA greater sound; residents near the end of the runway are barely tolerating such a sound increase.

    The F-35 sound will be 21 dBA greater than of the F-16, which will be perceived by residents as being about 7-10 times louder.

  10. Jed Guertin :

    The Air Force has now admitted its data was flawed. The GBIC data mirrors the Air Force data. Will the GBIC admit its data is equally flawed?

    Maybe the Air Force should hire GBIC to do their noise studies or maybe not.

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