Category: Information & Facts

Fact Sheet – June 2nd Public Meeting

We have the below information in a MS Word and PDF format.

Airport Expansion talking points/fact sheet June 2, 2014

  • airport master plan

An airport master plan is a long-range planning document used to review existing conditions and prepare forecasts that will define future aviation and non-aviation needs of the community. These needs guide the master plan process and are the basis for determining the appropriate role for the airport. Neighbors would like the role of the airport to remain a small rural airport.

  • neigh·bor·lyˈnābərlē/ adjective; characteristic of a good neighbor, especially helpful, friendly, or kind. North American says it wants to be a good neighbor.
  • The “No Build” option acquires portions of 14 parcels and 2 homes. Having an easement on OUR property lowers the value and makes it very difficult to sell. Having an easement on my neighbor’s property does the same.
  • North American Flight Services has a 20 year lease on the Saratoga County Airport and pays Saratoga County a nominal fee. NA pays no property tax on the airport property. The only economic benefit to the state, county, or town is sales tax collected on aviation fuel, repairs and parking fees. Profit accrues only to NA.
  • McFarland Johnson, an aviation consulting company, was hired by Saratoga County to update the Airport Master Plan with federal grant money secured by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer. The last Master Plan Update was done in 2003.
  • There was no Town of Milton citizen representation on the TAC (Transportation Advisory Committee) There was no citizen advisory board convened. We believe there are standards for citizen involvement when federal funds are involved. The results prove the proverb, “if you don’t have a seat at the table, chances are you’re on the menu.”
  • McFarland Johnson had one informational meeting in January 2014 which, as far as we can determine, was advertised only on the outdoor bulletin board at the Town of Milton Town Hall on Geyser Road. It was sparsely attended.
  • McFarland Johnson was charged with publicizing the second informational meeting on May 20th and, again, did not reach out to Town of Milton residents. Realizing this, Milton Town Supervisor Dan Lewza mailed 500 letters to residents in the vicinity of the airport, urging them to attend. After the letters went out, The Saratogian announced the upcoming meeting.
  • Between 220 and 300 residents packed the Geyser Road firehouse on May 20, uniformly opposed to expansion of the airport. Milton Town Supervisor, Dan Lewza, who is Chair of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Building and Grounds Committee spoke against any plan to extend runways.
  • At the May meeting, McFarland Johnson had posters available for viewing and a limited number of handouts. This was the first time residents were introduced to their 3 proposals, yet they were asked to “VOTE” on the plan they most favored. McFarland Johnson collected ballots. Residents could not choose “DO NOTHING.”
  • Residents spoke passionately about their opposition to destroying more of the community’s landscape and bulldozing homes to allow airport expansion.
  • M J told the audience that extending runway 5-23 is a safety issue and must be done to meet FAA standards. They said that jet airplanes must abide by a “fuel penalty” at present because it is not safe for the larger of them to take off fully loaded with fuel. Some can fly only 1000 miles with the fuel they are permitted at the present time. NA would like to fly people to Florida, and they cannot do it without stopping to refuel. North American continues to hammer home that the expansion is a SAFETY ISSUE, not a business or profit issue.
  • M J’s Draft Airport Master Schedule Update, page 6-6 declares that at the present time, with the “No-Build” option, the airport fulfills all FAA criteria.
  • M J presented three proposals (alternatives):

A No-Build option, which would allow a number of infrastructure, upgrades of runways, taxiways, buildings, etc. This ‘No-Build” option still requires, according to M J, seizing some residential property and the imposition of no build “easements” on many properties in residential neighborhoods. Easements come with restrictions and the possibility of invasion to limit the size of trees, shrubs and the use of the private land.

  • Option 2 is to extend runway 5-23 toward two residential neighborhoods by 801 feet. This would make it necessary to destroy between 23 and 36 family homes, per M J, the rerouting of Rowland Street and residential streets. Moving the Rowland Street power lines outside airport property was not addressed by M J, but would be necessary.
  • Option 2 was never a viable choice, given its indefensible basis, millions of dollars in cost, and the loss of property tax supporting County, Town, Saratoga Springs School District and the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Seizing properties takes them off the tax rolls forever.
  • Option 3 is to extend runway 5-23 301 feet toward the same two residential neighborhoods, still destroying homes and bringing larger and more fully loaded jet aircraft into and out of the airport. Jet aircraft would use this runway, fully loaded with aviation fuel, and would take off 301 feet closer to family homes than they presently do (per MJ).
  • According to the Update Option 3 is not necessary to maintain safety at our small community airport. Expansion dies allow increased private company profits. Expansion would also allow less experienced pilots to use the airport and fly in inclement weather.
  • If Option 3 is adopted, in addition to the obvious nuisance of increasingly loud airplanes which rattle our windows, crack our walls, and shake our foundations, families will be exposed to increased danger from living in or near the Runway Protection Zone (crash zone). The value of remaining homes will plummet.
  • Plummeting home value is not a frivolous concern. For most families, the home is the most valuable lifetime investment, and families risk losing 20% to 30% of their lifetime investment. This is a huge sacrifice to ask of our neighbors.
  • McFarland Johnson is putting forth Option 3 as a ‘compromise’. Only the citizens of the Town of Milton are asked to compromise under this proposal, however, as they lose home value, safety, comfort, land and forests cape, and native plants and wildlife as more and more property is seized, clear-cut, and bulldozed.
  • At McFarland Johnson’s presentation, residents were told that there would be great economic benefits from increased flights to the airport, as those users of ($35,000,000 GSV) private jets would no doubt eat at local restaurants on Geyser Road and patronize our nearby hotels. Residents greeted this statement with laughter—the only light moment of the meeting.
  • Saratoga County residents need to know that they will be paying for expansion of the runways, through their county, state, and federal taxes. Don’t be deceived by statements from the Airport or from McFarland Johnson that this is free. All County and Town residents will be asked to make up for the loss of tax revenue of destroyed and devalued property.
  • Information regarding the airport expansion has come in so quickly that it’s put a lot of our neighbors in an emotional state. This is for good reason.
  • Because the details for expanding the airport runways is lacking detail and carries a dishonest undertone, families have postponed vacations and home owners have put improvements on hold. The anxiety is at an all time high for our friends and neighbors.
  • Without having time to digest the presentation created by McFarland Johnson, it would be easy to believe the runways do not comply with FAA regulations. This is not true. The current runways do comply.
  • The plan to extend the runway has some serious economic pitfalls.
  • Acquiring up to 36 parcels and land will remove many families from our tax base. This doesn’t include our support to local businesses.
  • Our family spends nearly $600 if not more at Hannaford per month. Most of us do-it-yourselfers make weekly trips to Allerdice Hardware as well. We love our homes and enjoy improving them.
  • Don’t tell the taxpayers of Milton the airport runway expansion is for safety.
  • Selling more fuel equals more weight, which requires longer runways to get that extra weight in the air.
  • The residents of Milton and their homes are not expendable.
  • This plan is about greed and nothing more.
  • The residents of Milton support their community. We stand firmly against this expansion and we won’t let one neighbor go.
  • Our homes are our nest eggs, and for some, the only thing we have to survive in our struggling economy. We vote no on any airport expansion.
  • The “No Build” plan is NOT an option as this will still lower property values through land acquisitions and additional easements.
  • McFarland Johnson concluded that the airport is safe with the current runways (p 6-6 of Master Plan Update).
  • McFarland Johnson and North American told us that the airport will not be bringing in larger or more jets.  The Update document says that North American is opening a Cessna flight school and is buying its own jets.
  • Regardless of how many local and state committees the Saratoga County Airport Master Plan proposal has to go through, if the proposal successfully makes it to the FAA, the FAA will evaluate and either decline, ask for adjustments and/or approve. If the FAA approves this, they could ask for further revisions to any of the plans. This could mean more land acquisition not originally disclosed.
  • Update p 6-6 says that with the longer runways, the airport will expect to handle larger planes and a greater variety of air traffic (p. 6-6).  The Update also states that helicopter traffic is expected to increase.
  • There is apparently a great need for infrastructure upgrades–to buildings, to the runways.  There is a need to separate powered and non-powered aircraft on the ground.  These issues are addressed separately in the non-runway options.
  • The plans are not “free.”  Taxpayers (we) will pay for any option through our federal, state, and county taxes, and through loss of home value or loss of home.
  • Option 3, a 301-foot extension of runway 5-23, brings take-offs 301 feet further into our neighborhoods, making our homes more vulnerable andless valuable.
  • According to the Asst Chief of the fire company, which abuts the airport, no plans have been made for disaster response.
  • All three options require additional clearing of fragile vegetation, including the wild lupine, habitat of the Karner Blue Butterfly.
  • McFarland Johnson has not revealed the extent of clearing that will be done outside the easement areas—topping or removal of trees in our yards.
  • There was no citizen involvement in the Master Plan Update.
  • Jets, heavier with a full load of fuel, are a greater danger to nearby homes than those with the amount of fuel permitted now.
  • Inexperienced pilots are a greater danger to residents than those with experience. With expansion of the runway, inexperienced pilots will be permitted to take off and land. MJ says in the Update that presently it takes more experienced pilots to land and take off.
  • Families surrounding the airport will bear the cost of longer runways by all possible measures–loss of home, loss of home value, loss of safety and security.  All gains go to North American Flight Services.
  • Aircraft inappropriate to land in our small rural airport can land 20 minutes away at fully equipped Albany County Airport or at Schenectady Airport. According to M J, Global Foundries has already stated that they will be using Albany and Schenectady airports to serve their corporate and commercial needs. (the Update)

Our message: Do not expand runways. Do the upgrades on current airport property. Repave where necessary. Separate powered from non-powered aircraft (gliders). Secure the aviation fuel tanks, provide the previously promised vegetative visual screen. Replant to prevent further soil erosion and protect the aquifer. Allow families in the Town of Milton to coexist with the airport.

Tax Receipts and Costs

RE:  Airport Master Plan proposals by McFarland Johnson May 20, 2014

How does the expansion affect tax receipts and costs for NYS, Saratoga County, and the Town of Milton?

According to McFarlane Johnson (MJ), building an expanded runway will allow jets to land and take off with more aviation fuel.  They say that the fuel will be purchased at the airport from North American Flight Services and that the additional aviation fuel sold will add significantly to the sales tax revenues of NYS, Stga County, and the Town of Milton.  (The airport itself does not pay taxes, because it is a county-owned entity.  North American Flight Services (NA) has a 20-year lease on the property.)

Alternative #1 re Runway 5-23 from the MJ Master Plan Update calls for no expansion of the current runways, but major infrastructure improvement, including separation of motored aircraft and gliders.  It includes the destruction of some property, but less than their more favored suggestions.  If we have to vote for one of McFarland Johnson’s suggestions, this is the one residents support.

Alternative #2 from MJ calls for an 801 foot extension of the runway in question and requires the destruction of 23 residential homes, clear-cutting of mature trees and all other vegetation, relocation of Rowland Road, a major truck route serving nearby quarries and a cement plant nearer residences in a neighborhood called Rowland Hollow East, an established community of middle-class family homes.

Removal of these properties from the tax base of the Town of Milton (assuming an average assessment of around $275,000) takes well over $6,000,000 off the tax rolls, meaning a loss to the Town of Milton, the County of Saratoga, the Saratoga Springs School District, and the Saratoga Springs Public Library.  Saratoga Springs, being prosperous, can probably deal with this reduction without blinking. Saratoga County will need to collect additional taxes from taxpayers in all towns to make up for the loss, and the Town of Milton will feel the greatest effect.  Add in the amount spent at the local Hannaford (over $600 a month just for our small family), our weekly trips to Allerdice Hardware, and other local businesses, and we further lower the sales tax revenue.

This model does not take into account that the general undesirability of living near the destroyed properties, closer to a major truck route, the increased noise and property damage from the busier airport will discourage people from purchasing homes in the area and force property values to plunge.  Assessments for remaining property will be forced down, further reducing tax revenues for the affected entities and reallotment of tax liability to remaining residents.

It might be good to mention here that McFarlane Johnson included no information of this nature in their report, only the sales tax increase expected from NA’s fuel sales.

We have not factored in the cost of ‘acquisition’ of all the homes, which we are told by MJ is “FREE” because it is funded 90% by the FAA (we all pay our share of federal taxes, right?), NYS (yes, we pay for that, too), and Saratoga County (coincidentally, we are also Saratoga County taxpayers).  We are paying for our own destruction.

MJ proposes Alternative #3 a compromise.  It requires an addition of 301 feet to runway 5-23 and the destruction of less residential property.  The burden of “compromise”, however, rests soley on local residents, as it compromises our safety, our comfort, our way of life, and our property values.  Increasing the runway 301 feet means that jets will be taking off 301 feet closer to the already nearby homes (statement from MJ).  Again, residents will be protesting their assessments as they are unable to sell their homes.  No financial benefits accrue to the communities with this proposal.

These notes talk about only some of the financial consequences of the three alternatives. It does not take into account the human and environmental devastation, the damage to important human, wildlife, and plant ecosystems, nor the destruction of family and community ties.  It does not talk about the challenge of finding other homes near essential services for those who are displaced or the emotional or financial costs of resettling.