Airport noise a concern at forum

By Billy Corriher

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hosted a public information forum Monday night to address questions about airport noise and the upcoming fifth runway. But many area residents walked away with no solid answers to their concerns.

The airport, as part of its new noise abatement study, displayed the current noise contours it uses to determine which areas receive funding to insulate their homes from noise. Airport officials received feedback from residents on the contours.

Many residents in attendance were from the Cherry Hills neighborhood, which borders the construction site for the new fifth runway. Residents of the neighborhood have had to deal with noise from airplanes and from the massive construction project.

Tyrome Young has lived in Cherry Hills for almost 17 years, and he said the noise from the number of planes flying overhead as increased in recent years.

"I thought I was going to be comfortable here forever," he said.

Cherry Hills resident Gordon Stansberry said he is worried about the additional airport traffic from the new runway.

"We're getting that noise already," he said. "Imagine what will happen when they get the new runway finished."

But Dr. Tom Nissalke, the airport's director of environment and technology, said the airport had to consider a variety of factors and had few options of where to build the runway.

"Sometimes you have to site the runway and do what you can with noise mitigation," Nissalke said.

Residents of Cherry Hills, even though some live less than a mile from the new runway, will not qualify for noise mitigation funding because the neighborhood falls outside of the airport's required noise contour, which includes areas with greater than 65 dBA, decibels on a weighted scale.

"We can't do anything outside the 65 (contour line)," Nessale said, adding that the airport's guidelines come from the Federal Aviation Administration

But U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, is asking the FAA to review its noise contour policy and grant more money to Clayton County for noise abatement.

Scott said that county residents are most impacted by the airport and the new runway, even if they fall outside the airport's contours.

"I want to get the respect for Clayton County that is commensurate with the sacrifices that the people of the county are making," Scott said.

Scott said that local representatives should have a "seat at the table" when it comes to determining how the noise abatement funds are spent.

Scott said local leaders also need to get involved with areas like Cherry Hills that will be most impacted by the new runway.

"There's no other area more impacted by the airport (than Northern Clayton County)," he said. "If we're not vigilant and we do nothing? you're going to have a desolate situation."

Stansberry said that, once the new runway is completed, he hopes he will be able to sell his land for commercial use.

Stansberry said his foundation and sidewalk has been damaged by the blasting from the construction site, and if he wanted to sell his home, he would have to invest a lot of money getting it fixed.

Young said his home is also damaged from construction, and he said the situation that Cherry Hills residents are in is unfair.

"I understand progress," he said, "but at the same time, I live there."