Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said Tuesday he will support a 25-year lease extension with the Vermont Air National Guard at the Leahy Burlington International Airport when City Council meets October 23 to consider the measure.
Weinberger says a separate supplemental agreement “jointly commits” the Guard and the city to reducing aircraft noise and emissions and seeking alternatives to the Guard’s operations at BTV.
In a press release, Weinberger called the Guard a “committed, indispensable partner to the airport” since its arrival in 1946 and vital to the security of the state.
“This lease extension is the next, important step in ensuring the mutual success of Burlington, our airport, VTANG, and the region,” he said.
Noise complaints from residents in South Burlington and Winooski have followed the Guard’s flight training for years, but especially with the arrival of F-35A Lightning II fighter jets in 2019.
From the F-35’s inaugural flight in Vermont, nearby residents have said they are much louder than the F-16s they replaced. In May, dozens of people rallied in support of removing the 20 F-35s deployed here.
“I just wanted to get underneath the bed or something,” Omar Mitchell said after the aircraft’s first takeoff and landing at Burlington International. “It was that loud, like something was coming in. I’m from New York so once 9/11 hit, you feel all of that.”
The Guard’s operating rights under the current lease don’t expire for another 25 years. But Weinberger said Department of Defense regulations require military installations to have more than 25 years remaining on their lease in order to receive military construction funding.
“Without an extension, VTANG will be unable to move forward with $51 million in planned and federally funded capital investments at the airport in the next five years,” Weinberger said in a press release.
The mayor said airport investments include $7.7 million in renewable energy and clean heating projects and $32 million for new Net Zero buildings.
Weinberger said the terms of the lease extension include a commitment by the city to work with Vermont’s congressional delegation to speed development of simulated and augmented reality pilot training.
The agreement commits the Guard to “climate-informed” operational decisions, as well as to the use of alternative energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It also calls for the Guard to investigate alternative takeoff and landing procedures to reduce the noise.
Gov. Phil Scott applauded Weinberger for seeking City Council’s approval of the lease.
“The Vermont Air National Guard is essential for our state, and this lease extension is critical to ensure continued investment and support for those who serve all of us,” Scott said.