By Dean Narciso
For the first time, a group of OSU trustees listened to both sides in the debate over Ohio State University's plan to lengthen a runway at its busy airport.
The four trustees, members of the university's Facilities Planning Committee, yesterday heard from residents who say jet noise has become intolerable in neighborhoods near the Northwest Side airport.
"Our hope is that you will consider our concerns and find as we do that any expansion of Don Scott (Field) is unacceptable under any circumstances or conditions,'' said Tony Pello, president of We Oppose the Ohio State airport Expansion, a citizens' group.
Frequent takeoffs and landings are disruptive, hurt property values in his Worthington neighborhood and, last year, forced him find a new venue for his daughter's wedding, he said.
The group has collected more than 1,300 signatures from opponents of the project and logged about 8,000 noise complaints from residents.
The 11-member trustees board is to vote on the plan on Dec. 3. If the board approves the proposal, it would have to then pass an environmental-impact study by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is required for any project it's funding.
William A. Baeslack, dean of the College of Engineering, told the committee that teaching drives the airport plan. He called Don Scott a "real-world learning laboratory'' for research and airport-management training.
He also gave an overview of the proposed project's environmental effect, including noise readings taken this year that showed no significant effect on residents in neighborhoods near the airport, according to FAA guidelines.
The plan would include adding airplane hangars and almost doubling the length of the north runway to 6,000 feet. The project would be funded primarily by the FAA and private donors, Baeslack said.
Pello has said that corporate jet clients have overshadowed the airport's academic mission.
"The lengthened runway is not proposed for teaching; it's proposed for jets,'' he said, adding that their loud engines are at the heart of the complaints.
Riverlea Mayor Mary Jo Cusack also addressed the committee and said peak noise levels, not averages, should be considered.
Peak noise from engines is a concern, Baeslack said, but newer engines are designed to be much quieter and longer runways allow pilots to tailor take-offs and landings to lessen noise impact.
Trustee Walden W. O'Dell agreed that noise spikes should be evaluated. He asked Baeslack to provide that noise data compiled in February by an OSU consultant.
O'Dell called the noise averages "just one measure -- that won't do it for me.'' If the project is approved, developers should aim to maintain or reduce current noise levels, he said. "If there are only two planes, but it's very, very loud, you're going to have a problem.''
Worthington's legal consultant, David Zoll, called Baeslack's presentation "incomplete and inaccurate,'' and said noise is certain to increase.
After the meeting, he told O'Dell "You're being sold a bill of goods.'' O'Dell responded, "We haven't bought anything yet.''
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