The county will also look into drafting an ordinance requiring real state agents to disclose the airport's presence to potential area home buyers.
Residents concerned about noise from the county airport have made their voices heard at the County Commission: The county government will investigate strategies for reducing noise at the Flagler County Executive Airport in response to their complaints that the flight school traffic is too loud.
"We need a noise abatement plan from the airport, and a list of things that can be done that this [airport] advisory board has put together," County Commissioner Greg Hansen said to airport director Roy Sieger during a Feb. 3 commission workshop. "Understanding that you’re not going to close down flight schools, but they need to cooperate."
"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. … What we're asking for is just cooperation."
— AYNNE McAVOY, Palm Coast resident
The County Commission scheduled the Feb. 3 workshop after residents showed up at a Dec. 16 County Commission meeting imploring the county to do something about the noise. One, Jay Siciliani, threatened to sue for emotional distress if the county didn't take action.
The workshop opened with a presentation by Sieger and his staff, who noted that the airport was constructed in 1942 — well before the nearby homes were built. Most were constructed within the last 20 years.
The airport was the third busiest general aviation airport in Florida last year, Sieger said, and a study by the Florida Department of Transportation, he added, estimated that it generated $150 million in overall economic impact.
There are 29 businesses based at the airport, and, as an enterprise fund, the airport doesn't use ad valorem taxes, Sieger said.
Sieger said the airport has already taken steps to mitigate noise, including changing traffic patterns, having aircraft climb as high as safely possible, keeping patterns tight and instructing jets to follow FAA guidelines for noise abatement.
But Sieger's comments were followed by those of two members of the Flagler Executive Airport Advisory Board, who said that the airport's management has been unresponsive to board members' suggestions for improvements.
Les Abend, the board's vice chairman, said residents' complaints should never have had to make it as far as the County Commission to be addressed.
"The Airport Advisory Board is tasked with such concerns, but unfortunately, advice offered by members was largely ignored," Abend told commissioners during the workshop. "We volunteer our time only for the gratification that our mutual contributions succeed in improving Flagler Executive Airport. ... Nothing will be improved if our recommendations are dismissed."
Daryl Hickman, the advisory board's president, said board members had spent many hours looking into resident concerns, and came up with suggestions for the airport — including additional restrictions on hours for touch-and-gos, which are currently restricted from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. But Sieger, Hickman said, rejected an expansion of the restricted hours. The board had also suggested the placing of signs at the runway describing flight abatement procedures, but those have not been placed, Hickman said.
Sieger said he'd been surprised by the board members' comments, and said that conditions of the airport's grant funding limits its ability to refuse aeronautical activity.
Residents who spoke during the meeting emphasized that the flight schools, not the general aviation traffic, seem to be the source of the noise problem.
"We all agree that the airport is an asset to our community," resident Jay Siciliani said. "And it’s not the general aviation planes flying in, it is the flight schools that are causing the problem, and it needs to be controlled."
Resident Aynne McAvoy said she had lived near a much larger airport in New York, and it didn't cause such noise issues.
"We do have a problem when we can’t hold a conversation with someone in our front yard," she said. "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. … What we're asking for is just cooperation."
She added, "The issue is with the flight schools, not the airport."
Kim Carney, a real estate agent, Flagler Beach City Commissioner and candidate for County Commission, said the airport noise affects home prices.
When she was showing a home in the area recently, she said, "I did not need to disclose that we had an airport nearby, because during a 10-minute viewing of a house in the Z-Section, it was over and there were three aircraft en route somewhere, landing, taking off."
That client is now in the process of buying an otherwise comparable home elsewhere, for $15,000 more, she said.
"If you look at those sections in Palm Coast, the home values are less than other sections of Palm Coast with the exact same criteria for purchase," she said. "As a public official, if you can prove that there are home values decreased because of what your citizens are telling you, it is incumbent on you to do something about it."
Commissioner David Sullivan suggested the county require real estate agents to inform potential home buyers who live within 2 miles of the airport of the airport's presence, but noted that that might need to be handled by or in conjunction with the city of Palm Coast.
Hansen suggested that Sieger be firmer with the flight schools, and provide each with a list of recommended noise abatement steps.
"I think that part of your job is to make yourself a nuisance to those flight schools," he said. "I mean, if you've got to contact those guys every month, don’t let them forget that we’re not happy. Don’t let them forget."
The county will work on drafting an ordinance requiring real estate agents to disclose the airport's presence, and will look into creating a plan for noise abatement.
"If we do this intelligently and logically, I think we’ll ensure that the airport will continue to be one of the great business meccas for the county, and I think that we can accomplish both goals of making our airport work better and giving our citizens some relief from the noise," Sullivan said.