Thu, April 02

Commentary: Planes, trains, automobiles, coyotes; the noise never stops

The mix of residential neighborhoods with an airport is hardly a new discussion in Cottonwood.

This one has been batted around like a ping-pong ball for decades.

The only difference now is that the folks who see the airport as a less-than-desirable neighbor are well organized and persistently vocal.

They come across as being in this fight for the long haul.

That was especially evident at the City Council’s March 12 meeting. What was supposed to be a public comment session on the city’s draft strategic plan turned into a lengthy gripe session exclusively about airport noise.

There is little argument that residential areas and airports are not a perfect mix. Over the past 30-some years, I’ve owned two homes right along the city-county line in Verde Village right smack dab in the middle of the airspace leading to the Cottonwood Airport.

Yes, it can be annoying. I even theorized at one time that the vibration felt from low-flying planes over my home was the cause for structural cracking; an insurance adjuster said it was more likely the natural settling of the foundation.

During my time in both those homes, I got used to planes flying overhead. It was much the same as getting used to the noise from the nearby power plant where my dad worked when I was a kid. Or, during my years in Flagstaff where one of the homes I lived in was in earshot distance from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway tracks. Not to mention the places I’ve lived where hot rods have roared up and down the street late at night.

Planes, trains, automobiles, I’ve heard it all. Even today out in rural Cornville, the coyotes can raise the roof on our home some nights with their howling.

How’s a guy supposed to get a good night’s sleep?

In every instance in my own case, though, the noisemakers were there long before the homes I lived in were built. I was the one encroaching on the source of the noise, not the other way around.

If it’s of any consolation to the folks in Cottonwood, though, they are not alone in their problems with airport noise. March 1, Sedona-Red Rock News reporter Natasha Heinz wrote a similar story concerning noise abatement concerns at the Sedona Airport.

With both of these local airports, the Verde Valley missed the window of opportunity on escaping the conflict over aircraft noise about three decades ago.

Back in the 1980s, a thoughtful gentleman named Neil Smith championed the cause of a Sedona-Verde Valley regional airport. He proposed it be located in the area between Cottonwood and Sedona where the Sedona wastewater treatment facility is now located.

At the time, Smith said both airports were little more than glorified landing strips.

He said continued development of the Cottonwood and Sedona facilities one day would create community conflict as residential areas would be developed near both airports.

Smith firmly believed a regional approach, with a centralized regional location, was ideal for the future aviation industry in Sedona and Cottonwood.

No one gave Mr. Smith the time of day.

Predictably, both Cottonwood and Sedona believed their parochial approaches to airport development trumped a cooperative regional plan.

And, just as Smith predicted, airport noise abatement is a big issue today in both communities.

Cottonwood and Sedona made their beds when it came to airport development 30 years ago.

The same beds a lot of folks are sleeping in today.

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