After residents complaining of noise around the Flagler County airport threatened a lawsuit in their latest appearances before county government, the county commission scheduled a workshop to air out the issue and explore solutions.
As the workshop took place Monday afternoon, it took an unexpected turn as the top two members of the county’s own, appointed Airport Advisory Board severely criticized Airport Director Roy Sieger–generally one of the more worshiped and untouchable members of the county administration, at least within its ranks–for dismissing their repeated suggestions on noise issues and blocking their attempts to more actively negotiate with flight schools. They questioned how seriously Sieger was taking their role as an advisory panel, and even questioned the county commission’s respect of the panel, whose members were “relegated” to addressing the commission in the public comment period.
Sieger, who had provided a lengthy presentation of his own explaining the airport’s role and activities, stayed silent.
Darrell Hickman, chairman of the airport executive board, said the noise issue has been “a topic that’s periodically appeared” at the board, causing several members of the board to study the issue. He echoed the suggestion of a limit on touch-and-go training flights. “Suggestions included starting at 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. and continuing through to 7:30 a.m. These suggested hours were summarily rejected by the airport director in favor of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The airport director agreed at the meeting on June 6 to communicate this and other discussed policies to area flight schools, but not prior to his leaving on vacation June 12, which would conclude July 5th. At the time a well-connected member of the board offered to handle this task but it was dismissed by the director. The need for this communication was reiterated to the director at both the July 11 and again at the August 8 meetings. To date the advisory board has received no copy of any correspondence indicating that this communication has in fact been communicated to the flight schools.” He said other measures requested by the board have not been acted upon.
“There is much we can do to improve the situation with our airport neighbors through collaboration and education, but that can only materialize with a mandate from the county commission to do so,” Hickman said.
Les Abend, the advisory board’s vice chairman, doubled down. He thanked the commission “for taking the time to give consideration to the subject of airport noise,” saying the matter requires careful consideration.
But, Abend said, “it is also a matter that should have never been presented to this governing body. Why? The airport advisory board is tasked with such concerns, but unfortunately the advice offered by members was largely ignored. Had the recommendations been implemented, most likely this workshop would never have been scheduled, nor would your constituents have threatened litigation. Compromise is an important part of negotiations. But in this circumstance compromise was not forthcoming. Regretfully the airport noise issue is not the only circumstance whereupon airport advisory recommendations have been ignored or disregarded. Your current airport advisory board members, most of them experienced pilots, include background as educators, chancellors of universities, high-level executives, airline captains, realtors and writers. We volunteer our time only for the gratification that our mutual contributions succeed in improving Flagler Executive Airport. Although we have admiration for the accomplishments of the airport director, more can be done to affect daily operations and future revenue. But nothing will be improved if our recommendations are dismissed.”
Abend reminded the commission of the advisory board’s role. “In other words our membership on the advisory board functions as advisers to you as the county commissioners. If our roles become simply to acknowledge the accomplishments of the airport director, then we serve absolutely no purpose. But that’s a decision you as commissioners have to determine. The fact that we are relegated only to the public comment portion of this workshop is a reflection of our effectiveness.”
Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan gave Sieger a chance to address “your interaction with the board” toward the end of the meeting.
“I will admit I was a bit surprised on some of the comments that were from Mr. Hickman. I thought I was working well with my airport advisory board. Apparently I’m not. So, as a matter of fact I even sat down with them to show them this presentation, to ask if he had anything to add, he’s standing up to speak, he said no. I was kind of surprised. Imagine my surprise. Anyhow. To that end, I do listen to my airport advisory board. I listen. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I take all their recommendations. You gentlemen have asked me to be the airport director and I have done so for the past 11 years. I thought I’ve done a very good job with that and brought a lot to this airport and a lot to this community, a lot of economic development as well. With that, I’m always open to hear any recommendation anybody has. But also too, to that end, I have a very small staff, so sometimes I have to prioritize the things that I do, not that I’m saying that they’re any less important than others.”
All the airport advisory board members and the tower manager were in the audience.
Sieger had begun the meeting along the lines he had expected it would take: with a brief history and discussion of the airport’s reason for being.
It had started as Bulow Naval Outlying Field in 1942, ironically even then as a flight training base–for the military–with four runways. It now has two. The facility is classified as public use, general aviation airport, accounting in the past year 184,429 total “operations,” or about 500 operations a day–that is, takeoffs and landings–with corporate jets, seaplanes, single-engine or twin engine planes and military aircraft using the airport. (A touch and go counts as two operations.) Most of those are local general aviation operations.
The airport is a self-sustaining operation: it runs on money it generates from its own operations, through grants, fuel sales, rent and so on. It is used as a hub in emergencies, as it was during Hurricane Matthew (it was a hub for Florida Power and Light, among others) and Hurricane Dorian, and as a business park.
“We have no control where aircraft fly,” Sieger said. Noise complaints are mostly the result of flight-training, and originate in Palm Coast’s U and Z Sections, he said, though a resident in the audience later said residents in the K Section are also affected. He showed a map with a 2.5 mile radius around the airport, accessible here, that color-codes development around the airport over the years, and shows with red teardrop-like pointers where noise complaints have originated. There are some 4,300 buildings within that radius. Some 13 percent of the homes, or 543, were built in the last five years.
Mike Arnold, an airport consultant with Environmental Science Associates in Orlando–a firm that’s conducted over 100 airport noise and analyses in Florida–gave an overview of the few measures the county has at hand. He said the airport can enact voluntary measures or mandatory measures. But mandatory measures are regulated by federal rules, which, among other things, sets aircraft noise standards, prescribes operating rules and limits an airport’s ability to restrict aircraft operations. Notably, those federal airport rules exempt an airport from local noise ordinances. “Basically, federal law preempts state and local ordinances when it comes to airport noise,” Arnold said.
The FAA controls the aircraft when in flight. Local governments can have zoning and other land-use rules around an airport, and they can require sound-insulating building materials or standards in certain areas.
The federal government provides for what it calls “Airport Noise Compatibility Planning,” or “Part 150” for short (named after its “part” in the Code of Federal Regulations). It’s a voluntary study that allows a local airport to establish a reliable method of measuring noise and how it interacts with neighborhoods and land use. It sets out land-use alternatives and public input, but its effectiveness is limited, Arnold cautioned. “The Part 150 process is really the only formal mechanism to improve the compatibility between the airport and surrounding communities,” Arnold said.
The process determines the actual, proven noise exposure through the “Day-Night Average Sound Level,” or DNL criteria, which measures through noise modeling the audible activity in a 24-hour time period. “It allows an education process for everybody involved,” Arnold said, but seasonal variations in noise exposure are not reflected in the study, it’s costly, though the FAA pays most of the costs, it can take years, and it can unrealistically raise expectations. In sum, it’s not a solution, but a somewhat scientific method and an avenue for discussion.
“The airport recognizes that we are an airport within a community, but again as we saw here, there’s only certain things that we can do,” Sieger said. So the airport has asked aircraft to climb as high as possible before leaving airport boundaries, it’s designed a particular runway (Runway 6) for calm-wind operations, and requested that planes use noise abatement or awareness practices. He said there could be some potential additional voluntary measures, affecting runway patterns, and requesting voluntary training hours that would limit flying between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and exclude holidays. “Again, these would be voluntary. We can’t tell them they can’t,” Sieger said.
“The local government can require real estate disclosure. Do we do that here?” Sullivan asked.
“No, we do not,” Sieger said. The reason: the airport is county property, a doughnut hole within Palm Coast. “That would have to be done by the city of Palm Coast.” A decade ago the city did an “area master plan” around the airport, but its application regarding noise is not clear. But any ordinance-related noise-abatement measures would have to originate with the Palm Coast City Council. (“As far as the noise, I don’t need to disclose that,” Kim Carney, a Flagler Beach city commissioner and Realtor, told commissioners, “it’s very obvious when you’re out there, showing property.” Carney is running for the county commission.)
County Administrator Jerry Cameron said Palm Coast will be approached with such an ordinance in mind.
A dozen people addressed the commission, reiterating what many of them had said before in commission meetings: there’s a noise issue, and the county is doing nothing to address it.
Gina Weiss, a resident, raised questions about the airport’s communications with local residents, citing the time a few years ago when the county administration changed the airport’s designation away from its “rural” designation, adopting the name Flagler Executive Airport. (“We sound a little like Podunk, saying Flagler County Airport, there’s no zip to it, there’s no tone, no branding to it,” then-Administrator Craig Coffey Coffey said.)
“Flight schools account for 60 to 80 percent of the local airport traffic,” Weiss said, “and the noise of the touch-and-go’s training. We were maybe noise compatible when we were a small airport, but since then we have become incompatible as the result of the airport’s expansions and changes in its operations.” (In fact, based on the figures provided by Sieger and flashed on screens in the boardroom, in a graph going back to 2010, landings and take-offs at the airport have exceeded 160,000 a year long before the name change.)
Kelly Remington, an airport-neighboring resident, said she has no opposition to the airport but cites the flight-per-minute rate of flight-school activity as a “detrimental environmental effect” that has numerous health consequences–and noted that homeowners’ pressure has caused many municipal airports to close. (Sieger could not answer a question about when flight schools began using the airport. But he said Embry-Riddle moved to the area in 1965, and a flight school he knew of using the airport started in 2004.)
Another resident spoke of her own health problems and of outdated airport data that doesn’t reflect how close homes are to airport property. “I’m not going to die in that house because of the airport,” the resident said, demanding answers.
“Our issue,” Aynne McAvoy, another resident neighboring the airport, said, summing up a recurrent theme, “is not with this airport. In fact we used to live in Syracuse, New York, just a few miles from Hancock Airport–much, much bigger airport than this little airport, and there was never an issue, except when our country’s jets went up during 9/.11. That was loud. But we do have a problem when we can’t hold a conversation with someone in our front yard. We have a problem when we can’t hear the TV or have a phone conversation inside our home, without getting up to shut the door first. That’s a problem. What we’re asking for is just cooperation with the powers that be, with the citizens that live with this issue day in and day out. The issue is with the flight schools, not the airport.”
No one from a flight school appeared before the commission. No one spoke against the airport of course: no one wants it shut down. But aside from Sieger and the consultant, only one other person spoke in defense of the airport’s current flight patterns and activities.
Blain Meisterhans, the air traffic control manager at the airport, three times using the word “fail”to describe people’s understanding of airport activity, said residents aren’t understanding weather’s effects on airport activity, before defending the airport’s attempts to address concerns. “Just because they don’t hear anything doesn’t mean actions aren’t being taken” he said, such as limiting the Navy’s helicopter flight paths. “But there’s other things going on. Pilots need night landings for their training. It’s going to happen,” he said. “But just to say that nothing is being done is incorrect.”
Equipping the airport with a radar was a peripheral issue that cropped up a few times. Sieger said the airport has been working–and hoping–for a radar for years, but so far with little success other than federal officials saying the county could pay for it–$1.1 million.
As for the flight path and noise issues, Sieger said the airport has no authority to do much in those regards, nor can it limit a flight school’s activities. Some people in the audience visibly threw up their hands.
Commissioners themselves were also short on alternatives, though Commissioner Greg Hansen proposed bringing together the flight school directors and threaten them: “Just say look, you guys are going to ruin a good thing here. If you like flying out of our airport, please, please, do the following, and give them a piece of paper: this is what I want you to do. Please do this, or you’re going to lose your ability to fly here. And that’s kind of an idle threat, I understand, but it ought to be made.” He added, “part of your job is to make yourself a nuisance to those schools.”
Sieger said such suggestions, at least pertaining to after-hour touch-and-go flights, have already been made, apparently to little effect.
“Let’s keep in their knickers, you know?” Hansen said of the flight schools.
“Where do we go from here?” Sullivan said, not wanting another such workshop. He provided his own answer, one not likely to satisfy residents: not very far. “I don;t think we’re at the point other than to say we should continue to look at maybe some improvements we can make at the airport, but that we have to obey the rules, and it’s not an easy thing to say–well, we’re not going to fly at this time or something like that. We need to think it through.”
“We need a noise abatement plan from the airport and a list of things that can be done that this advisory board has put together and start down the path to get some of those things done that we could do,” Hansen said.
Commissioners agreed to “develop a plan,” in their words, but a plan whose parameters remain fuzzy for now, since local authority is limited on the matter, though the plan’s starting point would be the advisory board’s recommendats. “If we do this intelligently and logically,” Sullivan said, “I think we’ll ensure that the airport will continue to be one of the great business meccas actually for the county, and then I think we can accomplish both goals of making the airport work better and give our citizens some relief from the noise.”
This is easy. DONT BUY A HOUSE NEAR A AIRPORT if you dont like the noise. What a bunch of silly residents buying homes in the area and now crying about their horrible investment skills. There is a reason all the homes in those areas are considered less desired to live by the community, there is a reason you people live in the cheaper sections of the city. Deal with it.
Well said. People buy a house next to an airport and then complain about it is too noisy!
Richard Caudle says
Exactly and we could quit electing realtors and developers, whose motives are obvious, to our town councils and county commissions.
What a crock of crap! This airport has been here before anyone even built around it. All I can say is WOW! Elections are right around the corner, and I can’t wait to cast my votes!
Albert Difederico says
Why continue to build houses around an airport knowing someone will buy one and complain about the noise. People if you don’t like the noise sell your house and buy one far away from an airport !!
These stupid people should be ignored. They buy or build next to an airport and complain just like on golf courses because of lawn mowing. What is there to sue for??? I hope our commissioners don’t cave in to these whiners.
I’m with you Gina only difference is I live in Daytona North or more commonly known as the Mondex. I love no where near the airport but can show muti pics and videos of mostly Embry Riddle and a few private planes circling my house. So I don’t live anywhere near it but we still have all the problems that people who live close.
No flight schools representatives present at the meeting? then get the flights schools out or reduce amount from using the airport.
I knew when in 2004 or before the county approved the first school to operate in the county airport that a huge can of worms, noise and danger to the residents was opened.
Few months after they started I had to contact the county commission, the FAA in Jacksonville, then airport manager before Sieger and the Federal Transportation Committee Chair Senator John Mica in DC to reduce the low flying noise aircraft making stunts and kill and star engines over our homes in the C Section. I still keep some of their replied letters. Problem was mostly resolved. In spite of that we had an emergency landing in west Palm Coast Parkway among the traffic (Middle Eastern student pilot) right in front of St Joe business center, one fallen aircraft door from student pilot flying in the street L section , miracle cars or people out there, One aircraft emergency landing in the Rte 100 intracoastal overpass, another emergency landing in Rte 305 I think was another student…and the horrible noise and rattle endured by to all those Z,W and other areas residents that do not receive any financial benefits from it but only wrath. Further more are forcing probably us to pay soon for the 1.1 million radar from the county general funds as they been doing with the Plantation Bay utility and getting us in loans we can’t afford.
Lets use some common sense by not being cocky and reduce the noise or go, as is the humane advise of their own board.
Gina Weiss says
Thank you Palmcoaster, ” We the People” will only respond to those people who are FOR US and recognize this problem. We have no interest nor time to waste on people who are NEGATIVE or NON SUPPORTIVE.
Gina Weiss says
Palm Coaster: I invited Ken Ali, flight school owner to the meeting which took place this past December, he was sarcastic and condescending with me on our fb chat, this seems to be the climate among the schools owners and instructors as their behavior has shown in the past when residents reached out to them. He of course deleted his conversation with me but we have a snapshot of his demeaning attitude and he also ran with his tail in between his legs when he had asked me if I was the only person that was going to the meeting or if we were a group, when he heard group he ran. I said to him that we would like to meet with him to come to some logical solutions with the flight schools, his answer was that he pays a lot of money in rent and fuel cost to operate in this airport and this was the last I ever heard from him.
Your post was mostly well thought out, but you lost me stating one of the pilots was Middle Eastern. Why did you find it necessary to include that. Were any of the pilots Black or Hispanic? I guarantee there would be a huge uproar if you said that. What difference does it make what the pilot was?
NOT true “I knew when in 2004 or before the county approved the first school to operate in the county airport’ There is a flight school ON the Airport since the 80s. Flight schools have been using the Airport well before any based themselves there. they came/come from Daytona and Orlando areas.
It’s an airport people.why did you buy there?
Residents need to blame somebody for their own stupidity. That’s what it’s all about these days. Blame somebody else.
Concerned Citizen says
These people making what they think are such brilliant and ‘stable genius’ comments here on this site telling us to “Just Move” need to think again. You think because you used to watch Gray’s Anatomy you could then advise your surgeon what to do and how to do it? Same difference. You know NOTHING of what you are talking about!
You don’t live here in the flight path. We do. Also when we bought here, there were very few flight schools coming in and out. The noise level wasn’t an issue at that time.. That number of flight schools has jumped to six flight schools and the constant noise has also greatly increased. This is NOT one plane coming in for a landing. This is several planes landing, taking off, landing, taking off, circling over our homes, for hours. This is NOT typical airport noise. Your unqualified opinions are a joke.
So please don’t tell us what we should do. Again. You don’t live here in the flight paths. The issue…as has been said over and over again…is NOT the airport, but the flight schools. What didn’t come up at the meeting, and perhaps should, is the ever present danger of a flight student screwing up so badly his teacher pilot cannot fix it, and he crashes and burns into one of our homes. If the county balks at 1.1 million dollars for radar which they do not have and is an ever present danger to every resident of this county….I wonder how they will balk at multiple million dollar lawsuits after a deadly crash and burn? Hmm?
Gina Weiss says
Concerned Citizen: As they say “when they go LOW we go HIGH, so let them all knock themselves out all they do is spew hate and divisiveness.
Gina Weiss says
Concerned Citizen: So these are just a few of the same people who are telling us to LEAVE, there’s that nasty word again, that were outraged by
the recent comments of an official? Hypocrisy and cherry picking to the fullest. When one is an advocate whether it be for people, animals, or the environment one is an advocate for all, they should be banning with us- their neighbors, so that we can have some seeds of comfort.
The Airport Director is surprised, really? A room full of people speaking of significant problems over time vs. Airport revenue trade offs ? He needs to deliver both items for taxpayers.
The Airport is a donut hole in the middle of the City, County? You bet…..given projected growth ~8-10 years ago shouldn’t a person in that position come forth with a strategic plan considering this obvious growth? Relocating the airport…..or stopping the home development around the present location…..or other options? Every time, we seem to throw a problem in the laps of BOCC or City officials when it’s far too late.
Given Flagler growth projections, all master development plans for… services / infrastructure/ tourism & shoreline (And risks ) should be under great scrutiny.
Many responses miss the point. The residents around the airport are not in denial about living near an airport. What they are bitching about is that Mr Seiger turned a nice small community airport into a take off and landing strip for flight schools with over five hundred touch and goes a day/night. All of this was done so that those “landings” would qualify to get more $$ from the Feds for new landing strips.
All this is a kin to making your nice residential street into a secondary highway ! Mr Seiger did this with full knowledge of all the Commissioners. Now they all are caught in the mess they made like BINGS then Sears then Sheriff HQ-ETC. You got the picture we PAID for it.
Must be election year with coming up on EIGHTY ” Double Talking Chairman Sullivan” who publicly threatened to kill then walks away without charges. All while a young high school gal that threatened to kill has the book thrown at her with her life’s record permanently marked.
Voter’s remorse stings for FOUR years, just multiply that by THREE seats this election.
Ever since I moved to this county the airport was already there. I remember hoping then that it will become a big enough airport to take regional commercial flights. To this day i am enjoying watching the airport grow and still hope that soon it will become a busy, bustling, commercial airport with lots of flights and buisness. If you built a home anywhere near the airport and didnt expect it would continue to grow then that your own dumb fault.
With due respect, you are incorrect.
Facts based research comment
The airport has been there a very long time. You bought a home, knowing the airports as there. Now it offends you. Don’t blame someone else fir your stupidity. You bought near an airport. Airports are noisy. Quit your complaining
The local airport has no control of what planes do outside of its immediate airspace.
Most flights you see around here are flying under visual flight rules. If you want the airport to have more airspace control, then the class of airspace around here has to be upgraded…. good luck with that, as that is the FAAs responsibility . Airspace class is based on a lot of factors, but volume of traffic is probably the most obvious one. Flagler doesn’t come close.
So, what is the answer Mr. Sieger? If you need part time BOCC help (OF SIGNIFICANT THESE GENTLEMEN ARE NOT full time staff) then, you need to consider if this is the right position for you given Flagler County growth projections.
DITTO FOR EVERY OTHER Flagler County or City department. It must be said! And, if you are under qualified, please move on.
The tax base must be protected.
I am glad at least those people in the P, W. Z sections were given the meeting to be heard at least by FCBOCC and the fair airport advisory boars.. Now they need to act properly on advisory board plans to help reduce the nuisance. In the C section nowhere adjacent to the airport we had to endure the noise, low flying aircraft stunts and kill and start engines and was mostly resolved except for one rebel student/instructor out of the norm (generating our com[plaints calls) here and there, but is bearable now. Those disrespectful here of those residents rights to be able to hear themselves talking or hear their TV set on or being rattled inside their house could not care less for the nuisance created by “the profitable schools”. Those that were kicked out of Volusia county regional airports for the same nuisance reasons and were invited by our county commissioners to settle here. What are we chopped liver? Embry Riddle school is in Daytona Beach why the flight training here other than Volusia…because they were booted from there…sure. The Flagler county residents quality of life should be as important. Those hear insulting the complainers, do it because they do not live there and further more maybe are the flying boys instead and reminds me the one’s opposed to any traffic calming improvements in FPD as also they do not reside FPD road front and have to endure the nuisance day in and day out, as when people bought there sure the issue didn’t exist I know it by fact. Our local government county or city is supposed top address growth with a plan and not taking away our quality of life and our safety!
Steve Vanne says
So anyone who lives by the airport is Stupid and lives in a cheap home. I paid $250k for my home so it’s not cheap. Though I don’t have problems with a plane flying over my home every 10 minutes or so I’m just pissed I can’t fly my drone at home. By the way I have college education so I’m no stupid. Just saying my peace.
$250k for a home actually is pretty cheap, and that’s what you paid not realizing you were near an airport. It’s actually worth less considering the noise one must live with in that area.
FFA has no control they can only ask nicely to stop. And as for a crash and burn lawsuit, didn’t that happen in the U section.
Can the FCBOCC document for us were the 2019 mentioned by Sieger 150 million revenue benefits the rest of the county taxpayers outside the airport? If the county airport is a free independent enterprise means is supposed self sustained…a total distortion as funds from county the general operating funds have been used before and are planned to be used in the future to pay for its 1.1 million at least cost of future radar. Is like the Plantation bay rip off yeah, the users only will pay for repair cost and purchase and was a big lie, as now we are all in the hole for at least 15 million loan…So this and past BOCC’s got as a great deal in with all these 6 flying schools no shared revenue to the tax base but some costly improvements and the nuisance we have to endure. Same shameful deal just disclosed, that we are forced to pay for elected and administrators city and county to attend the black tie gala of the Chamber of Commerce at $80 each in a city and county were per the last census the average income is $25,000 a year…Look at the end of this video Councilman Jack Howell trying to get support to rescind this unfair practice and waste of our hard earned taxes with NO support :https://youtu.be/2luA9zbWFCY
Brian Riehle says
This is a complicated problem that exists at many Airports around the country, and there are no easy solutions. What I do know about the Flagler Executive Airport, after serving on the Airport Advisory Board for 6 years, and resigning in frustration over issues similar to those expressed by the current Advisory Board members, is that the Airport Director, and ostensibly the BOCC, seem to more interested in moving dirt, pouring concrete, erecting new buildings and Economic Development, than they are about Aircraft Operations and Safety.