Regional Affairs Brief: New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport
The issue: Residential encroachment, noise concerns spur action
On January 8, 2007, the city of New Smyrna Beach Planning and Zoning Board voted to recommend that the city commission approve the voluntary annexation of 55 acres of Volusia County land and a comprehensive plan amendment regarding a proposal known as the Village at Hidden Lakes. The amendment would change existing low-density county zoning designations to higher residential density city zoning designations, allowing construction of more homes near the airport. The problem is that the parcel of property is within 3,000 feet of the approach end of Runway 2, and there are noise-sensitive areas in all quadrants of the airport with documented histories of noise complaints. Adding noise-sensitive areas around the airport creates more potential for additional noise complaints, access limitations, and possibly even closure of the airport.
New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport/Jack Bolt Field (EVB) is a former World War II surplus property general aviation airport that serves as a reliever to Daytona Beach International Airport. Three runways presently serve the airport, with the longest runway at 5,000 feet. There are 156 aircraft based at the airport and three fixed-base operators providing aircraft fuel, maintenance, air taxi/charter, and flight training services. An air traffic control tower became operational in October 2004 and currently handles approximately 172,357 annual operations. The airport is used by a number of flight schools not based at EVB that use the airport for flight training operations.
AOPA learned of the proposed development in September 2007 when concerned members contacted us regarding the Florida State Department of Community Affairs (DCA) July 27, 2007, Report of Objections, Recommendations and Comments for the City of New Smyrna Beach Amendment 07-1. After reviewing the DCA report and the original city request, AOPA wrote a letter to the DCA in support of their recommendations regarding compatible land use that the city not adopt the proposed amendment.
The city’s chief planner resubmitted their proposed plan amendment and responded to DCA’s recommendations with some detail to answer the concerns raised in the July 2007 report. While detailing how the proposal meets current Florida Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration compatible land use guidelines, the response minimizes the current noise concerns of existing airport neighbors.
Local citizens around EVB who are subject to aircraft overflights put together a Web site that outlines their concerns with the noise problems. This is a technique many anti-airport noise groups are utilizing to broaden their message. In response to this Web site and the growing concern by airport supporters and users that Jack Bolt Field was under attack and in danger of being closed, or at least having restrictions, the Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport (FONSBA) became a reality under the leadership of AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer Paul Rooy. FONSBA produced a pro-airport Web site.
The neighbors’ concerns are that the little community airport that they moved next to grew into an airport with a vibrant flight training school on site and has become heavily used by outlying flight schools as well. The main complaints are that there are airplanes over their houses on a very regular frequency. Normal annual increases in both based aircraft and operations are compounding the situation to the point that the anti-noise community is proposing restrictions ranging from landing fees, banning touch and goes, reducing runway lengths, and forcing flight schools to not use the airport.
After learning that the city intended to move forward with a resubmission of their amendment, AOPA wrote a letter to Mayor Sally Mackay in February 2008 reiterating our issues with the project and the detriment it poses to the airport.
In April 2008, ASNV Rooy and FONSBA Executive Board members set up a series of meetings for AOPA staff with city officials including the mayor, the city commissioner whose district encompasses the airport and neighboring communities, and the airport manager. The mayor recognized the importance of the airport to the community at large and that the airport is not going away. At the April 8 city commission meetings she acknowledged the need to hear specifically from the citizens of New Smyrna Beach, both airport supporters and opponents, and directed that two town hall meetings be held to hear that input. Both FONSBA and AOPA presented information in the commission meeting. Out of the town hall meetings in April and May an airport noise working group was formed with representatives from all affected parties. AOPA followed up with written comments to the mayor and offered a number of recommendations to help the city work through noise issues related to the airport.
Working to foster the spirit of collaboration, FONSBA sat down with NSB Airport Noise, Inc., and in a series of meetings allied themselves in opposition to the proposed Hidden Lakes development in two resolutions presented to the city commission on June 26, 2008. This alliance came about because in order to make the development work, the city would need to shorten Runway 2/20 by 800 feet, effectively limiting its usefulness and forcing aircraft onto the two remaining runways. This would result in an increase in traffic and noise over the neighboring housing areas. In addition to keeping Runway 2/20 open at full length, the two groups also reached consensus and support for raising the traffic pattern to 1,000 feet, increasing the visual approach slope to 4 percent on all runways, initiating a real estate airport disclosure program, and devising a rotational-use pattern of all existing runways to better manage noise distribution.
For its part, the city is moving forward with conducting a Part 150 noise study and is looking at other alternatives to better manage the amount of flight training activity at the airport, including consideration of establishing an outlying airstrip to handle takeoff and landing practice. The city is also considering implementing landing fees as another method of controlling the amount of traffic at the airport. AOPA is opposed to that alternative. The proposal to build the Hidden Lakes development is still not final but is working its way through the city’s permitting process. The developer has hired a retired FAA employee as a consultant to handle the aviation-related issues.
AOPA is strongly opposed to residential development adjacent to or in the vicinity of our nation’s airports, particularly development that is directly under approach and departure paths. AOPA and the local pilot community have urged the city of New Smyrna Beach to abandon the idea of changing the land uses for this property to allow an increase in residential housing under the approach and departure path for Runway 2/20. In addition we have recommended strengthening existing zoning regulations to ensure an early review of proposed projects to avoid allowing non-compatible land uses, height hazards, or safety concerns from moving forward. Based on our experience, AOPA also recommended establishing a community noise working group to collaboratively come up with reasonable solutions to the existing noise concerns at the airport.
- January 8, 2007: City of New Smyrna Beach Planning and Zoning Board votes 6-1 (Sally MacKay, board chairperson dissenting) to recommend city commission approval of The Village at Hidden Lakes.
- February 21, 2007: City commission approves the two ordinances annexing the property and amending the land use designation.
- May 29, 2007: City submits for review the proposed comprehensive plan amendment for the city of New Smyrna Beach to Florida Department of Community Affairs.
- July 27, 2007: DCA responds to city’s proposal with their objections, recommendations, and comments, including recommendation to not adopt the proposed amendment due to it not being consistent with state land use compatibility guidelines.
- August 30, 2007: AOPA notified of proposed development, begins working with Airport Support Network volunteer Paul Rooy to resolve the issue.
- September 23, 2007: Friends of New Smyrna Beach Airport (FONSBA) is established and swings into action to counter negative press about the airport.
- December 21, 2007: AOPA sends letter to DCA supporting their recommendations.
- January 2, 2008: FONSBA sends letter to DCA supporting their recommendations and offering additional local information.
- January 14, 2008: City of New Smyrna Beach resubmits proposal to DCA with additional information addressing the DCA’s concerns.
- February 21, 2008: AOPA sends a letter to Mayor Sally MacKay, outlining our concerns with the proposed development and requesting the city to come up with a better and more compatible land use for the property.
- April 8, 2008: AOPA staff meet with airport users and city officials to discuss concerns with the proposed Villages at Hidden Lakes development. AOPA also addressed the city commission during the April 8 regularly scheduled meeting concerning airport encroachment. FONSBA officers make a presentation on “The Truth About Our Airport.”
- April 23 and May 2, 2008: Mayor MacKay holds two special community hearings on the airport, encouraging citizens to be heard and to bring viable solutions forward.
- May and June 2008: FONSBA and NSB Airport Noise, Inc., have a series of meetings to discuss possible solutions and develop joint resolutions presenting the two resolutions at the June 28 regular city commission meeting.
AOPA will continue to remain engaged in this issue.
Posted July 17, 2008