Noise News for Week of February 16, 1997

Nevada City Seeks Funds for Sound Barriers

PUBLICATION: Las Vegas Review-Journal
DATE: February 21, 1997
BYLINE: Sean Whaley
DATELINE: Carson City, Nevada; Henderson, Nevada
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Assemblyperson Gene Segerblom, D-Boulder City; Bob Groesbeck, Henderson Mayor; Jill Odell, Henderson resident

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that city officials from Henderson, Nevada made a pitch Thursday to the Legislature for $30 million for sound barriers along U.S. Highway 515, but a state transportation official said the project is too costly.

According to the article, Assemblyperson Gene Segerblom, D-Boulder City, asked the Assembly Transportation Committee to consider paying for sound barriers along the highway from Lake Mead Boulevard to the Boulder Highway because of the high noise levels for residents. Henderson Mayor Bob Groesbeck said the noise levels are a serious problem for 760 residents who live along the stretch of highway, which began construction in 1991 and opened in 1994, the article reports. Groesbeck said the sound barriers should have been part of the construction project. Residents on hand in Las Vegas to testify for the funding via teleconference never got the chance, because technical problems shut down the system. Jill Odell, a resident who planned to testify, said that regardless of who is at fault, the noise problem needs to be fixed.

The article reports that Tom Stephens, director of the Department of Transportation, said a 1990 sound study found that noise levels were not high enough to obtain federal funds to build sound walls. However, Henderson officials apparently were unaware of the study at the time; City Manager Phil Speight said that if city officials had known about the study, they likely would have challenged the findings. Stephens indicated that sound barriers would be too costly; his agency had already offered to help mitigate the noise through a less costly earth berm project, but Henderson officials had rejected the idea.

According to the article, several questions from the transportation committee centered on when homes were built near the freeway and whether Henderson officials made any efforts to reduce noise through agreements with developers. Groesbeck said that some subdivisions and homes were constructed after the highway right of way was known, but restrictions were not considered because the freeway noise was not expected to be a problem. Groesbeck added that a study commissioned by the city in 1994 suggests sound levels are above the 67 decibel limit set by the federal government in some areas. However, Stephens said the federal government will not provide funding for sound barriers now even if the levels are higher. The committee took no action on the measure, the article states.

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California Airport Environmental Report Lacks Property Value Impacts

DATE: February 21, 1997
SECTION: News; Pg. 9 El Toro Airport Watch No. 4
BYLINE: Anthony Pignataro
DATELINE: Irvine, California
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Larry Agran, former Irvine mayor and hear of Project 99

OC Weekly printed the following editorial by Anthony Pignataro regarding the proposed conversion of the El Toro Air Base near Irvine, California to a commercial airport:

If you want to kill a man, you might consider hitting him over the head with the county s voluminous Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the proposed El Toro International Airport. Yet for all its tables, figures, illustrations and analyses, it s remarkably thin on one of the airport's most contentious issues: how much impact the nation s soon-to-be fifth-largest airport will have on nearby residential-property values.

But when Larry Agran--former Irvine mayor and current Project 99 head--asked the county why it ignored a Sept. 15, 1994, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) study on that issue, the Board of Supervisors answer was simple: Essentially, it is unlikely that the airport would cause any significant adverse impact on residential property values. Agran, who called the response insulting at a Project 99 press conference last Wednesday, handed out copies of the FAA study, The effect of airport noise on housing values: A summary report.

While the study didn t find any universal depreciation values for homes near large commercial airports, it did conclude that the noise impact is more pronounced in higher-priced areas (read Irvine, Lake Forest, Laguna Niguel) than in poorer areas. For example, the study found that home values in well-to-do neighborhoods near LAX dropped 16 percent due to airport noise, whereas home values in poorer neighborhoods only dropped 1 percent.

Whether you agree with its findings, this study uses a sophisticated methodology, Agran said. It's clearly a credible study that should have been cited in the DEIR. But it wasn t, and county officials weren't apologetic. Their response to Agran even contained a warning that the county wouldn t be liable for any property-value losses that might occur. The county pretty much said, Go ahead, you bastards, and sue us because you'll lose, Agran said. We're going to sue, but we re not going to lose.

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Noise Conference to be Held in Europe

DATE: February 20, 1997
SECTION: News; Pg. 1
BYLINE: Sandra Smithlondon
ACTIVISTS, INDIVIDUALS, AND GROUPS MENTIONED: Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l'Environnement

The European reports that as part of the European Commission's focus on noise problems, a conference on noise issues will be held on March 24 that will gather noise experts from around Europe.

The article reports that the conference will be held by the Institut Bruxellois pour la Gestion de l'Environnement, and speakers from around Europe, including Brussels, Berlin, Lille, and London, will be invited to talk about noise problems.

A recent European Commission green paper claims that environmental noise, caused by traffic, industrial, and recreational activities, is one of the main local problems in Europe and the source of a growing number of complaints from the public, the article reports. A spokesperson for the Commission's environment directorate said that noise is the third environmental priority of European Union citizens after traffic and air pollution, but almost nothing has been done about it. The spokesperson added that this is a chance for noise to be put higher on the agenda. The Commission is interested in finding a common way of collecting noise data across Europe, and then offering help to cities that need it, the spokesperson said.

Xavier Bonnefoy, an adviser for the World Health Organization based in Copenhagen, agreed that noise problems have been neglected in the past, the article reports. He believes that other types of pollution, such as air pollution, are easier to legislate solutions for, because it is possible to find out who is guilty and penalize them. Many forms of noise, however, are created by everyone, and politicians are uncomfortable with that, Bonnefoy said.

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Study Finds that Cargo Development at Belgium Airport Will Bring Noise Problems

DATE: February 18, 1997
SECTION: Vol. 14, No. 7; Pg. 61
DATELINE: Liege, Belgium

The publication Airports reports that two independent studies have been done on the Bierset Airport near Liege, Belgium, and one of them has found that noise problems would result from expanding the airport into a major cargo hub.

According to the article, the express cargo carrier TNT is currently transferring its European headquarters from Cologne to Bierset, and the airport has geared up for the move with new cargo terminal facilities, improved apron surface areas, and extended runways. Bierset's airport authorities have welcomed TNT despite their use of older, noisier Chapter 2 aircraft, partly because of the depressed economy in the area. But public fears of nighttime noise, and protests against it, are rising as well, the article reports.

The newly completed noise studies were commissioned by SAB, the company responsible for Bierset's commercial development, the article reports. One study, by the University of Liege, analyzed the current noise footprint beneath 15 kilometers of Bierset approaches in order to establish a baseline for use in future potential lawsuits. The other study by ATEC, a Brussels research group, predicts future noise levels based on plans of TNT (which makes 23 flights per night) and other carriers. The study argues that even with anti-noise measures such as home insulation or modified takeoff and approach patterns, at least 12,000 people will be affected. "Certain zones will no longer be habitable" due to around-the-clock aircraft movements, the study claims.

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More Opinions on California's El Toro Air Base Aired

PUBLICATION: Los Angeles Times
DATE: February 16, 1997
SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 11; Zones Desk
BYLINE: Matt Schwartz, Laguna Hills; Derek Quinn, Laguna Niguel; Michael Steiner, Costa Mesa; Thomas Wilson, Supervisor, 5th District
DATELINE: Los Angeles, California area

The Los Angeles Times reprinted the following four letters to the editor concerning the proposed conversion of the El Toro Air Station near Los Angeles into a commercial airport.

To the Editor:

Professor Arthur De Vany's solutions in "Balancing El Toro Airport's Costs, Benefits," Feb. 2, come straight from the ivory tower in which he has been too long ensconced. He recommends that those of us who own property in the "environmentally impacted areas" (screaming takeoffs and landings, polluted air, gridlocked traffic, etc.) be paid "a monthly fee for the noise it inflicts on the property." How much does the professor think is a reasonable monthly sum for the utter destruction of the quality of life for which we invested our life savings? Would he "lease" a home from the "airport operator" who might "purchase the property within the noise zone and lease . . . to other, less noise sensitive individuals"? I think not. "Grant homeowners within the district a generous tax rebate"? Get real!

I live in Leisure World, Laguna Hills, a community of nearly 20,000 independent seniors who came here beginning in 1965 to live out our lives in peace and dignity. Should this abomination come to pass and the professor's recommendations be implemented, would he invest his retirement pension to become my neighbor? What, and leave that cozy ivory tower? No way!

Matt Schwartz, Laguna Hills

To the Editor:

Clarence Turner's Orange County Voices column on Feb. 2 had all the sincerity I have come to expect. He was one of the most vocal proponents for commercialization since his city of Newport Beach and developers stand to gain the most. I am sure that he and other proponents would take a personal interest in lobbying federal agencies and politicians to limit the size and use of El Toro. Most likely ensuring just the opposite.

Arthur De Vany's idea of tax credits for those in the affected area are a joke! Not even considering that Orange County has marginally lifted itself out of bankruptcy, the county can now be sued by every homeowner who sells at a loss due to the Board of Supervisors' vote. De Vany was right in his comment that it would flop as a private venture, which is precisely why the proponents put it on the countywide ballot and promised unrealistic benefits for everyone.

If you see odd-looking sheep coming down the road with pointed ears, big teeth and drooling, you can be sure it's not in your best interest to believe them when their lips move. This is still a special interest project. Wake up and smell the coffee!

Derek Quinn, Laguna Niguel

To the Editor:

Most letters against an El Toro airport seem to be filled with ridiculous threats or whining gibberish. I believe I have figured out what those writers really mean. "Boycott North County" means: "I buy mail order anyway because of the crowded roads caused by the exploding South County development." "Let's secede and form our own county" means: "Vote for me, I plan to run for mayor of Irvine, El Toro, etc." "Expand John Wayne Airport" means: "Never mind that the lion's share of expansion in Orange County has been and will be in South County, we won't share the burden. Let Newport Beach suffer even more." "We won't stand for any airport at El Toro" means: "Even though the new airport will be quieter than the one that's always been here, imagine how our property values will skyrocket with no airport at all."

Solution along lines of the thinking above: South Countians stay off North County roads and out of John Wayne and we won't need any new roads or airports, period.

Michael Steiner, Costa Mesa

To the Editor:

The debate over the reuse of El Toro Marine Corps Air Station will continue until we secure a non-aviation use. However, with regard to county financial decisions, there is need for clarification in respect to a recent vote by the Board of Supervisors and select misinformation that only harms our fight to preserve the quality of life for all of Orange County.

This misinformation concerns the board's vote to refinance an outstanding pension obligation bond. This vote did not dramatically increase the county's cash flow. On the contrary, it prevented a ballooning of payments for a bond which would have critically depleted the general fund, thus causing deleterious effects for many needed existing programs. This money could not be used for any "pro-airport services," simply for the fact that it is not extra money.

Contrary to assertions that airport opponents suggested we vote against the refinancing, no such testimony was presented at the board hearing for the pension obligation bonds. Why? The two issues are not connected. It is analogous to saying the county should not encourage fiscal discretion in procuring office supplies because any such savings could benefit airport proponents. That thought process is wrong.

Thomas Wilson, Supervisor, 5th District

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Residents Plan to Appeal Building of California Monastery

PUBLICATION: Los Angeles Times
DATE: February 21, 1997
SECTION: Metro; Part B; Page 2; Metro Desk
BYLINE: Hope Hamashige
DATELINE: Yorba Linda, California

The Los Angeles Times reports that residents of Yorba Linda, California will appeal the approval of a community monastery and meditation center; residents think traffic and noise will be a problem during large celebrations.

According to the article, the Myanmar Buddhist Society -- which has proposed the building -- does not plan to hold large celebrations, and says that loud noise is not allowed at Buddhist monasteries anyway. The applicant noted that "This is going to be a quiet place where people can reflect on the teaching of Buddha." The monastery has the support of other denominations in the community, including Sikhs, Mormons, and Catholics.

Despite these reassurances, neighbor Georgia Campbell worried that there would be numerous "cars coming and going," and loud celebrations.

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