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Vt. city reverses position on F-35s at airport

Jul. 9, 2013 - 01:48PM   |  
An F-35 fighter taxis May 12, 2012, at Edwards Air Force Base.
An F-35 fighter taxis May 12, 2012, at Edwards Air Force Base. (Lockheed Martin via AP)
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT. — The City Council in the Vermont city that is home to Burlington International Airport on Monday reversed a decision it made last year to oppose plans by the Air Force to base F-35 fighter planes there with the Vermont National Guard.

The South Burlington council voted 3-2 in favor of having the F-35s at the airport.

Last year, the council voted 4-1 to oppose bringing the planes to Vermont, largely because of the noise the planes are said to make. But on Town Meeting Day in March, two city councilors who voted against the planes were replaced by councilors thought to support it.

The council’s vote is not binding. The Air Force has set a mid-July deadline for public comment on the proposal. The secretary of the Air Force is expected to decide this fall whether to base the F-35s in Vermont or elsewhere.

F-35 opponents say the planes would be too loud to fly from the Vermont airport, situated among residential areas. Some fear the health effects and possible loss of property values.

But supporters say bringing the planes to Vermont would ensure about 1,100 high-paying jobs with the National Guard and the planes could be flown by the pilots to minimize the noise they would make.

South Burlington Council member Rosanne Greco, a retired Air Force officer who was city council president when the vote against the planes was taken, called her vote Monday against the planes a vote for the community’s children.

“From the beginning, I wanted to speak for the people who will be most affected by the decision: those who live around the airport,” she said in a statement written before the vote. “But, after learning about the harm the F-35 will do to our children, I believe I have a far greater responsibility — a moral obligation — to do whatever I can to protect the most defenseless, our children.”

Nearby Winooski also held a public comment period Monday. The council there postponed further consideration of the issue until Wednesday. Much of the city is off the north end of the airport runway.

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