By: Megan Stewart
Date: Nov 9, 2023
The Burlington City Council approved a 25-year lease extension with the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) at the Patrick Leahy Burlington International Airport on October 23. This decision was contentious and divided the council 8-4 along party lines. The extension allows VTANG to operate on 281 acres at the airport until 2073. Proponents of the lease argued that not extending it would pause crucial climate-friendly projects worth $51 million, disrupt life-saving services provided by VTANG, and negatively impact the local economy.
The main opposition centered around the VTANG’s use of F-35 fighter jets, which have been controversial due to concerns about noise pollution, environmental impact, and ethics. The presence of these jets has been a source of discontent among local residents and has led to various protests and movements.
Officials, including Mayor Miro Weinberger, argued that not extending the lease would have dire consequences, such as the loss of essential services like aircraft rescue and fire services provided by VTANG, local employment issues, and hindrances to climate initiatives. The VTANG also responds to numerous off-base incidents, contributing significantly to local safety and emergency responses.
Despite the lease extension, the possibility of removing the F-35s seems limited. Any decision to remove these jets would require federal intervention, as the local or state governments do not have the authority to dictate such changes. However, some council members who voted in favor of the lease expressed support for continuing efforts to mitigate the noise from the F-35s.[FULL ARTICLE]