McNEIL: Passenger jet service would degrade our quality of life

Citizens for a Better Gwinnett is a nonprofit organization of residents concerned about issues affecting our quality of life. Issues include Briscoe Field expansion, water rate increases, the 2012 TSPLOST vote (transit), and the budget deficit. Our team includes, among other professions, real estate specialists, accountants, teachers and engineers.

We define “quality of life” as the quality of the day-to-day life one would expect to live in their community. It would include an acceptable level of noise, clean air, easy and swift access to and from the workplace, a safe environment, reasonable growth in property value, and expectation that the communities continue to grow and thrive.

At issue for 2011 is the proposed Briscoe Field expansion that would initiate 737 passenger jet service. Since June, when the push to expand Briscoe became public knowledge, Citizens for a Better Gwinnett has been actively researching the effects of passenger jet service on communities surrounding airports similar to Briscoe Field. We’ve researched noise abatement plans and anti-pollution plans. We’ve looked at property values and the actual monetary gain coming from passenger jet service. Job opportunities, retail and manufacturing growth were investigated.

The facts lead us to believe that Briscoe Field expansion will not bring positive changes to Gwinnett. Boeing Company, manufacturer of the 737, notes in its Quiet Climb study that a 737 produces 75 decibels of noise until the aircraft climbs to 10,000 feet; by that time, the aircraft would be six to seven miles down range. This distance will affect a significant portion of Gwinnett County, including Lilburn, Snellville, Dacula and Auburn.

Other cities affected by the approach, departure and holding patterns will include Suwanee, Winder, Braselton, Loganville, Grayson, Sugar Hill, Buford and Duluth. Takeoff, landing, and holding patterns will be determined by the FAA, with no input from Gwinnett County. Jet fuel fallout causes pollution that, in the least, breaks down fiberglass roofing material and, even worse, causes respiratory discomfort.

Numerous studies have been performed by very reputable universities and independent real estate professionals. The results indicate property owners in the flight path can expect property values to decline by 9 percent to 40 percent. Westchester Airport, the example touted by Propeller Investments, reports it employs fewer than 60 persons and states airport profitability results from private corporate jets and helicopter traffic, not passenger jet service. Exceptions to these facts can be found, but they are few.

Every person in Gwinnett County will be affected by Briscoe expansion, and we predict the effect will be negative. It is not just those who live in Lawrenceville. Everyone will encounter problems with noise, pollution, declining property values and traffic congestion.

Citizens for a Better Gwinnett recommends:

1) Privatization of Briscoe Field to enhance the appeal to general aviation operators and eliminate taxpayer liability.

2) Remove passenger jet service from consideration to protect residents’ home values, Gwinnett County tax base and quality of life.

We encourage every resident to take this issue seriously. Do your own research. Attend the candidate forum at The Bridge Community Church at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 where the BOC chairperson candidates will answer your questions. Then, join us at the Justice Center at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 for the BOC meeting.

You are also invited to visit our website, www.bettergwinnett.com, where you can learn more facts and contact us to receive our newsletter.

Gaye McNeil and her husband have been Gwinnett residents since the early 1970s. She is a retired Gwinnett County teacher and serves as the communications manager for Citizens for a Better Gwinnett.