Blasted: Will City Council carry weight with airport?
Angry homeowners in the Walnut Hills neighborhood next door to the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport say their well-maintained houses are cracking up– literally. They've got cracks in their walls, their foundations, their septic systems. They've asked the airport to halt the blasting that's part of its runway extension, and April 15, City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of this Albemarle County 'hood to halt the blasting.
That's not going to happen, at least according to airport executive director Melinda Crawford. "We're moving forward with the project until directed otherwise by the authority," she says.
The Charlottesville Albemarle Airport Authority is a three-man board appointed by City Council and the Albemarle Board of Supervisors, and whether the council resolution will influence Albemarle county exec Tom Foley, the city's Aubrey Watts, and UVA prof Bill Kehoe remains to be seen. Those authority members had not responded to the Hook at press time.
Crawford met with the Walnut Hills neighborhood association the same night City Council called for a halt to the blasting. "I understand their questions and concerns," she says. However, she maintains that the blasting does not exceed standards. "Until there's other evidence, we have to move forward," she says.
That's the rub for home-damaged residents like Jonathan Boersma. "It's offensive to say it's not related," he says, recounting an incident in which a neighbor who lives the farthest from the airport had pictures fall off the wall from a blast last week. "We've had people observe this but the airport won't say it's related," he fumes.
"We're bringing a geo-technical firm on board," says Crawford. "The airport offered to arrange home inspections of those who request them so there will be a baseline for when the blasting stops in June."
"That doesn't address the issue of the current damage," counters Boersma. Walnut Hills wants the blasting company to at least set up an escrow account. Contractor Maine Drilling and Blasting has told neighbors who've complained about damage that it won't be processing any claims until all the blasting is complete.
"Generally speaking, we found the response from the airport rather shallow and hollow," say Boersma.
"They were very pleasant, very gracious," says Crawford of her meeting with Walnut Hills residents. "We really want to be good neighbors. We care about their issues."