- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - Kim Gaboriault and her husband planned to sell their home in 2009 when Vermont’s largest airport, which adjoins their neighborhood, offered to buy properties because of aircraft noise, including the sound of F-16 fighter jets used by the Vermont Air National Guard.

But the airport never offered to buy it. Since then, she said the noise has gotten worse at their ranch house since nearby homes that once blocked some of the sound have been demolished.

The couple now has another chance to sell. Gaboriault and her husband, however, fear their city’s fight against the buyouts - in order to maintain affordable housing and to fully plan for the impact of the noise - could derail their plans.

Burlington International Airport hopes to buy 39 more homes as part of its voluntary buyout program. But the issue has created tension between the city of South Burlington, the airport and the Federal Aviation Association.

“We’re just so vulnerable,” Gaboriault said Wednesday. “It’s hard to plan. It’s hard to know what to do with our home. It’s hard to … everything. You just don’t know what to do.”

Representatives from the FAA, the airport and the Vermont Air National Guard are meeting with residents at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the airport to answer questions.

The airport has bought about 150 homes since the late 1990s, demolishing 100 of them in 2015. That year, it also completed an updated map that expanded the areas that would be affected by noise based on new data from the F-16s and other aircraft.

Officials in the small city of South Burlington say that’s not enough and that more planning must be done before the arrival of the louder F-35s.

The city has asked the FAA to do noise modeling using F-35 data and wants the airport to halt the home buyouts. The FAA says a new noise map will be done in the next year or two.

“The airport is asking us - the city of South Burlington - to adjust our zoning regulations to require people who are building in the general area to upgrade their noise resistance in these homes. For us to do that, we kind of need to know … what are the affected homes,” said City Manager Kevin Dorn.

So far the airport has purchased five of the 39 residences it wants and is doing other home appraisals, according to Nick Longo, the airport’s director of planning and development. Among the buyouts are three homes built just seven or eight years ago, which the airport is proposing to move rather than demolish, Longo said.

Airport officials said they’re anxious to begin their next step which includes adding insulation to some area homes and replacing their windows. But they said the buyout must be completed before federal money is available to do that.

About 900 homes are in the modest neighborhood. They are older but well-maintained, affordable and part of a community that includes a school, said Helen Riehle, chairwoman of the South Burlington City Council.

“There’s a real sense of community. And that’s what’s so upsetting,” she said.

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