Burlington Free Press front page article:
New attorney for coalition says Burlington may be liable for homeowner compensation
The Stop the F-35 Coalition, a group of Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, Williston and Colchester residents opposed to basing the Air Force’s new fighter bomber at Burlington International Airport’s Air Guard station, has hired an attorney.
James Dumont, a Bristol attorney, has sent public records requests on behalf of the coalition to Burlington, to the airport and to the Air Force.
He has asked the Air Force for:
• Records of Act 250 applications pertaining to the F-35.
• Records regarding compensation for property owners affected by changes at the airport
• The scoring sheets rating each potential base for the F-35A.
• Documents recording “existing or projected or modeled noise” inside South Burlington’s Chamberlain Elementary School.
He has asked Burlington and the airport for:
• Act 250 permits and applications for the airport.
• South Burlington zoning permits for the airport, including any permits pertaining to the F-35 basing.
• Records regarding compensation or discussion of the process that would be used for compensation for homeowners that may be required if the F-35 is based at BIA, including any discussions of whether Burlington taxpayers might be liable for any compensation costs.
Burlington city officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Dumont’s request for records.
Dumont said the Vermont Supreme Court has ruled that airports are not entirely exempt from Act 250 provisions and that the “new use” the F-35A represents could require Act 250 approval.
“It’s not just the noise, per se,” he said, referring to the substantial increases in noise outlined in the Air Forces Draft Environmental Impact Study released earlier this year. “But some of these houses, potentially thousands, may have to be bought out, and that will change the character of these neighborhoods. Act 250 and local zoning both apply to those changes.”
He said Burlington, as “landlord” for the airport, may also be liable “for the activities of the tenant.”
“As I understand the law,” he said, “an excellent argument (can be made) that the city may be responsible for the damages suffered by property owners. The city may be left holding the bag, and Burlington needs to know that before this goes any further.”
He said he has not yet had discussions with city officials but has made the records request to “see how much the city has considered these issues.”
“People can come in to City Hall and find their own house on the maps,” she said.