Naples Airport Authority declines to revive noise study
By LESLIE WILLIAMS HALE
Thursday, December 16, 2010
NAPLES — The Naples Airport Authority declined to revive a recently-scrapped noise study on Thursday, citing the recommendation of a hired consultant.
Instead, the board opted to move forward with a survey examining the community’s feelings about bringing commercial airline service back to the Naples Airport.
The noise study came up at a Naples City Council workshop on Monday with council members agreeing on a resolution for the Naples airport to complete the study, if deemed necessary.
The airport board Thursday voted unanimously to reaffirm its October decision to scrap the study.
The initial decision was made, commissioners said, after the airport’s consultant on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “Part 150” study told airport Executive Director Ted Soliday that a study would find that airport noise levels are actually lower now than they were in 2005, at the time of the last study. That, commissioners said, would make it harder for the airport to impose more rigorous noise restrictions on the planes flying into and out of the airport. At the same time, the board disbanded a technical advisory committee set up for the purpose of assisting with the study.
The airport’s weight limit for planes remains in place.
“We (were) informed by a knowledgeable, honest and straight-forward recommendation by a consultant … that the best thing we can do is to terminate the current study so as to enhance our ability with the FAA to establish these departure and approach procedures,” said Commissioner Ernest Linneman.
Commissioner John Allen pointed out, as a “civics review,” that the airport board of commissioners operates as an independent body set up to “serve the best interests of the airport and the community at large” — not an advisory committee of the Naples City Council.
As such, Allen said, the City Council’s recommendations are “not compelling, they’re not authoritative, and they’re not the only factors we have to take into account when we’re making our decisions.”
Meanwhile, as one of its goals and objectives for the following year, the board agreed to conduct a poll and create a study looking at the desire for commercial airline service through the Naples Airport. At Monday’s City Council workshop, Councilman Sam Saad said any such poll should be completed by February, in order for the council to vote before work begins on extending a main runway.
Linneman said he does not want to see an “artificially determined deadline” imposed on the poll, which all board members agreed needs to be conducted by a professional firm. Allen pointed out that the airport’s discussions around extending the runway have always been somewhat independent of the discussions about luring commercial service to Naples — one does not necessitate the other.
The runway extension, meanwhile, is still awaiting approval by the FAA.
However, Commissioner Cormac Giblin expressed concern about conducting a survey, comparing it to the city council seeking a public opinion poll before approving zoning changes.
“I’m extremely apprehensive about doing a public opinion poll on what the direction of the airport should be,” Giblin said. “It might be a slippery slope.”
The entire project is budgeted for $4 million, with the possibility of it coming in under budget, commissioners said. Commission Chairman Bobby Sullivan said he would not elect to spend $3 million or more if he already knew that 90 percent of the community was opposed to having commercial airline service in Naples. But, he said, the reason for the survey is to determine the overall sentiment.
“We’re not working in a vacuum here,” he said. “We’re living in a community.”
Still, Saad said Thursday he was largely disappointed in the board’s actions at the meeting.
“It’s very disappointing that they have not re-constituted the TAC (Technical Advisory Committee),” Saad said. “Government always works when it’s open and in the sunshine, and when citizens are involved. The TAC was a citizen participation, and now we’re going to have less citizen participation.”
© 2010 Scripps Newspaper Group
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