WESTFIELD–Neighbors of Barnes Municipal Airport have had some turbulence over noise reduction efforts.
As the airport continues its noise compliance program with the FAA, it is seeing changes and trying to work with the homeowners and policy makers in the city to make sure the plans go smoothly. The program has called for the purchasing and demolishing of some homes, while sound insulating others, and is sponsored by both the federal and state governments. Along the way though, plans have changed and Brian Barnes, airport manager at Barnes, has tried to mitigate any issues that have arisen because of this.
“There are people who are concerned about the program, which you’ll have,” Barnes said. “But it’s a small percentage.”
Barnes said that he and Wyle Acoustical Engineering, who is the firm working alongside Barnes in the noise mitigation program, have received newer models from the FAA, which are expected to impact the plans originally laid out.
“Nothing changed yet, but it will be changed,” Jane Verbeck, programming manager for Wyle, said.
The program’s changes will come from the noise contour map that was generated after further studies were done on sound coming from the airport. They found that some homes were now in higher decibel areas that were originally not, meaning that some homes will now be eligible for acquisition. This has caused a problem for some homeowners because they were originally told that their homes were going to be sound-insulated but remain standing, and now the homes are going to be potentially acquired and demolished instead.
“They’re upset because they can be acquired or have to wait two to five years to potentially be sound-insulated,” Verbeck said.
This change appears to have drawn the ire of those in the directly-affected area of Cara Lane, which prompted homeowner Carol Shannon to write a letter to the editor in The Westfield News about it. In part of the letter, published Feb. 19, Shannon writes:
“Over the course of the better part of the past 10 years, we have been told our properties don’t fall within the contours, do fall within the contours, then do not again. Most recently, my property has been designated as in the ‘acquisition area’ along with 3 other homes on my street. The remainder of my street, which consists of 9 homes on a cul de sac; are not considered in the acquisition area.
But in spite of this complaint, Barnes said that people are supportive.
“A lot of people were looking into the program and looking toward it,” he said, regarding the acquisition and noise mitigation processes.
“A majority of people are very happy with it,” Barnes added.
So far, Verbeck said that 10 homes have been acquired through the program, while 84 have been sound-insulated. However, there are 25 homes still eligible for acquisition–some of which are on Cara Lane–as well as an additional 192 homes eligible for noise reduction.
The number of homes means that it will take a significant amount of time for the program to complete, and as the changes in noise levels in certain areas modify the program, so can the future of the airport and aviation.
“We don’t know what’s down the road for aviation,” Barnes said. “Could be bigger, louder planes.”
This could mean even more changes for the homeowners, and continuing frustrations for some–especially if F-35A jets come to the airport. Barnes Airport is a candidate to house the jets, beginning in 2022.
However, Barnes thinks that in spite of the flaws so far, the homeowners around have been generally open to the changes.
“The neighbors are excellent here, they’re very good,” he said. “We’re very fortunate to have a supportive group around us.”