City Offers Aircraft Noise Study, Rejects Halt to Master Plan

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By: 
Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–The City of Middleton has offered to hire an independent consultant to review aircraft noise at one location in the Town of Middleton and two locations in the city.

The offer came in an Oct. 14 response by City Administrator Mike Davis to the Aug. 20 joint meeting with the Common Council and the Towns of Middleton and Springfield in which the towns brought up airport and planning issues.

The town would get to choose the time and location of the noise monitoring in the town, and the city locations, Middleton Hills and downtown Middleton, would be monitored on the same day for a comparison, according to Davis’ letter.

On Friday, the city Planning Department asked residents to share their personal observations of aircraft 
“flight tracks” by Oct. 30 to help consultants Mead & Hunt develop aircraft noise contours to be included in an airport master plan being drafted.

More information on the noise contour project is available at: https://www.cityofmiddleton.us/455/Airport-Master-Plan

Town of Middleton Chair Cynthia Richson welcomed the noise monitoring as she said aircraft have operated at 80 decibels over her house as recently as Sunday (Oct. 18). 

“I have asked at the September (Airport Master Plan Advisory Committee) meeting for a peak study of noise generated on the airport’s busiest hour, day and week,” she said in a phone interview Monday.

On other matters, Davis was less cooperative. He wrote that the Common Council ejected Richson’s request to halt the master plan process until it complies with statutory requirements of comprehensive plans to identify conflicts with local municipalities.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t require an airport master plan in order for the city to obtain federal funding, only a current Airport Layout Plan, Richson said.

“The FAA definition of a master plan is for future development,” which has made Richson suspicious of the city’s motives for updating its airport master plan.

Davis wrote that a master plan is separate from the city’s comprehensive plan, under current revision, and is needed to give the city a look “at all options in order to consider the long-term viability of the airport.”

“The Council does not wish to fund operations of the airport from the City’s general taxpayers but rather from leases, fees, fuel revenues and Tax Increment Financing for the purchase and development of the airport property. Neither Town has a stake in the legal or fiduciary responsibility for the airport,” Davis wrote.

The towns have asked the city not acquire land in the towns by eminent domain in order to expand Middleton Municipal Airport-Morey Field, however, Davis called the request “premature” as the draft master plan is months away from completion.

Expanding the airport would come through condemnation or eminent domain, which the city previously used to acquire airport property, according to Richson.

The towns and the city dispute the impact of the 1998 Common Council resolution limiting the main runway to its current 4,000-foot length. The council adopted the resolution before city residents approved a referendum endorsing the city’s acquisition of Morey Field.

“One Council’s resolution does not contractually bind a future Council to the same position 22 years later,” Davis wrote. He noted that the resolution doesn’t prohibit the city from making needed improvements to the airport and that no one should rely on the resolution “to conclude that the airport operations would be frozen at 1998 levels.”

Richson said homes and schools were built in reliance on the 1998 resolution to keep the runway length below the 5,000-foot length, which is prized by many types of jets and commercial aviation.

Town of Springfield Chair James Pulvermacher declined comment Monday on Davis’ letter, saying it would be discussed at this week’s town board meeting.

Although there was interest in continuing meetings between the town boards and Common Council, the city hasn’t offered or committed to another one, Richson said.

 

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