Skip to content

Burlington City Council Resolution to Bar the F-35 Basing


Burlington respectfully tells its tenant that F-35 basing

will not be permitted at Burlington airport


Whereas, the City of Burlington owns the Burlington International Airport, is actively involved in its operation for commercial aircraft, and shares runways and other facilities with its tenant, the Vermont Air National Guard and the United States Air Force; and


Whereas, the Air Force is considering basing F-35 jets at the Burlington International Airport during its first round of operational basing; and


Whereas, the City of Burlington is fully cognizant of the serious harms to thousands of people and their property that will be produced by the basing of the F-35 at Burlington International Airport, as described in the attached Air Force revised draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and as summarized in the attached Memorandum, incorporated herein by reference; and


Whereas, the harms more fully described in the attached memorandum (with citations) include:


C   The Air Force expects the F-35 to have a crash risk much higher than the F-16 during the first years of F-35 operational basing. The F-16 now has a crash risk much higher than commercial flights. 1400 Vermont homes are in the Air Force designated crash zones; and


C   Crash risk is increased because the runway at Burlington International Airport has a length far shorter than the runways at Eglin Air Force Base, and the runway in Burlington barely meets the minimum requirement specified by the Air Force for F-35A basing; and


C   A crash of an F-35 jet is likely to have a far greater impact than an F-16 crash because, unlike the F-16, 42{33979494efa9b9c28f844b5c37a1ddedf4bb90a2eb3dac7a83ede58b7eac2e67} of the F-35 airframe weight is a composite plastic that is combustible, adding to the fuel load, the smoke that comes off a composite fire is toxic, and the fibers that become airborne from the burning composite are carcinogenic; and


C   The Air Force report indicates that the F-35 is more than 4 times louder than the F-16; and


C   The Air Force report says that 770 Vermonters live in an F-35 noise contour (75 dB DNL) where the Air Force report says hearing loss, cardiovascular disorders, and cognitive impairment of children are “credible”; and


C   A World Health Organization report indicates that 70 to 85{33979494efa9b9c28f844b5c37a1ddedf4bb90a2eb3dac7a83ede58b7eac2e67} of the children whose homes are in this 75 dB DNL noise contour are expected to suffer cognitive impairment and that 50{33979494efa9b9c28f844b5c37a1ddedf4bb90a2eb3dac7a83ede58b7eac2e67} of the children in the 65 dB DNL contour are expected to suffer cognitive impairment; and


C   The Air Force says the F-35 will produce a sound level of 115 dB on the ground when the F-35 passes overhead on takeoff when it reaches 1000 feet elevation; and


C   A National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health report limits worker exposure to a 115 dB sound level to only 28 seconds per day–while F35 basing would create this noise level for at least “6 minutes per day”; and


C   The Air Force report indicates an expected loss of home value of 11 to 42{33979494efa9b9c28f844b5c37a1ddedf4bb90a2eb3dac7a83ede58b7eac2e67} from the increase in noise if the Vermont Air National Guard transitions from F-16 to F-35 basing as 3410 homes are declared “unsuitable for residential use”;


C   A respected Vermont real estate appraiser found that homes near the airport entrance suffered an average 15{33979494efa9b9c28f844b5c37a1ddedf4bb90a2eb3dac7a83ede58b7eac2e67} loss in value before being purchased under the full-price FAA buyout program–an average loss of $33,000 per home–and that loss in value was before any widespread designation of the homes as “unsuitable for residential use”;


C   Based on this average 15{33979494efa9b9c28f844b5c37a1ddedf4bb90a2eb3dac7a83ede58b7eac2e67} loss in home value, the loss from F-35 basing for 3410 homes is expected to be in the range of $100 million, mostly in Winooski, but also in Ward 1 of Burlington, in South Burlington, and in Williston; and


Whereas, in the past, as landowner, Burlington took action to facilitate the increasing noise of the F-16, such as the vastly increased noise near the airport entrance as the Vermont Air National Guard changed the configuration of its external fuel tank and implemented regular use of its afterburner, including applying for federal funds to buy out 200 affordable homes near the airport entrance; and


Whereas, a vast increase in news articles and media attention during the past year demonstrate increasing public debate about the dangers of the intense noise produced by military aircraft and the crash risk of basing a new warplane in a heavily populated area; and


Whereas, neither the Air Force nor the FAA nor any other external source of funding is coming forward to compensate the 3410 homeowners whose homes the Air Force says will be unsuitable for residential use; and


Whereas, as landowner, Burlington has authority to bar the basing of aircraft that cause injury to neighbors, and neither federal preemption nor state sovereign immunity would protect Burlington from liability if it fails to do so; and


Whereas, the City of Burlington is concerned about its liability under Vermont statutory law, Vermont common law, and the state and federal constitutions for all property devaluation, nuisance, harm to the health of individuals, personal injury, the taking of property without just compensation, and the legal fees and other costs of defense, that may be incurred by the City of Burlington as a result of basing F-35 jets at the airport and their use at the airport; and


Whereas, in all its thousands of pages, the Air Force report provided zero advantages to Burlington or to Vermont from basing the F-35 at the Burlington airport, including in the area of jobs; and


Whereas, former Adjutant General Michael Dubie said that the Vermont Air National Guard would LOSE maintainer jobs if the F-35A were to be based here because the F-35A will not be maintained at the Burlington Air Guard Station, as is the F-16–the F-35A will be maintained at a centralized location, and at least half of the full time Vermont Air National Guard jobs are maintainer jobs; and


Whereas, as landowner, the City of Burlington has responsibility, authority, and ability to avoid harms to people and property as well as avoid the enormous risk of liability to the City inherent in permitting F-35 basing; and


Whereas, in April, 2013, the Air Force announced it was upgrading all of the F-16’s to keep them flying until the F-35 is fully operational, and the Air Force stated it intends to keep the F-16’s flying until at least 2030, so there is no urgency for Burlington to base F-35’s; and


Whereas, a front page Boston Globe article on Sunday April 14 quotes a Pentagon official reporting that the basing process was “deliberately ‘fudged’ by military brass” and that “Burlington was selected even before the scoring process began”; and


Whereas, the Air Force did not provide satisfactory answers to questions included in the June 2012 Resolution adopted by the Burlington City Council regarding:


  • Whether buyers will be able to receive federally guaranteed loans (FHA and VA)
  • What kind of “special approvals” will be necessary in order to receive federally guaranteed loans
  • What additional disclosures will sellers within the 65 DNL contour need to sign in order to sell their homes
  • Whether any residents will be in the “Accident Potential Zone”
  • Whether there will be any risk of hearing impairment for adults, children and infants due to F-35 training; and


Whereas, in view of severe negative impacts on Winooski described in the Air Force revised draft EIS, on July 12, 2013 the City Council of Winooski unanimously passed a resolution that “formally requests that the Burlington Air Guard Station be removed from consideration of current basing of the F-35A.”


Now therefore be it resolved that the City of Burlington, as owner of the lands at the Burlington International Airport that are used by the Vermont Air National Guard pursuant to leases and joint use agreements, will use its authority as landowner to prevent the basing of F-35 jets at its airport; and


Be it further resolved that the Office of the Clerk-Treasurer is directed to send a copy of this resolution and the attached memorandum to United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, United States Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning, United States Air Force Secretary nominee Deborah Lee James, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Mark Welsh III, Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Major General Steve Cray, the Vermont Congressional Delegation, Governor Peter Shumlin, Chittenden County Senators, Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski, Williston, and Colchester Representatives, neighboring city councils, and to the Air Force personnel at Langley AFB that were seeking comment to the revised draft Environmental Impact Statement.