Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Residents voice more frustration over tree-cutting plan at Bowman Field Airport (KLOU) Louisville, Kentucky.

Kylene Lloyd/ The Courier-Journal

At the second meeting in less than three weeks, Louisville residents expressed their frustration over a Regional Airport Authority plan to cut trees on private property and in parks and golf courses near Bowman Field to make take offs and landings safer.

More than 125 people attended a meeting held by the authority Wednesday night at the Breckinridge Inn.

At times, many in the audience could be heard groaning or collectively saying “no” to comments by authority officials or the moderator, Stan Lampe, president of Kentuckians for Better Transportation.

The format prohibited public discussion, requiring instead that participants submit questions in writing. But some objected to not being able to ask follow-up questions or express their opinions and spoke anyway, contributing to tension at the meeting.

Dan Gimbel, a Kinglsey resident, was among those who insisted on talking. He said he was concerned about large trees in his large yard as well as the aesthetics of the whole community near Bowman Field.

Lampe responded: “I guess the question is, ‘Do you want to hold your own meeting?’”

As some people started to groan, he quickly added, “I'm sorry.”

The tree-cutting proposal was announced in early December and presented in a public workshop Dec. 19.

Federal Aviation Administration officials told The Courier-Journal last week that as the airport's approach systems become more modern, based on global-positioning systems, there are new requirements for expanded airspace protections. They said the Louisville airport has a problem meeting those requirements, and that trees obstructing one approach forced the closure last year of one runway on nights when there is poor visibility from inclement weather.

Metro Councilman Tom Owen, who represents the area, has scheduled a third public meeting for Jan. 19. He has promised a moderated but more open meeting format. Owen will be joined by Metro Councilwoman Tina Ward-Pugh at his meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the Douglass Community Center, 2305 Douglass Blvd.

The Dec. 19 meeting featured officials at several stations talking to people in groups about how their neighborhood areas might be affected. Some complained, so airport officials Wednesday night added an auditorium-style presentation, followed by written questions and answers.

About an hour and 15 minutes into the meeting, Lampe sought to break it up and send people to separate rooms to see how their properties might be affected. Small groups formed in nearby rooms to look over maps.

Katy Schneider, who is helping Mayor Greg Fischer form a city tree board to advocate for the Louisville's urban forest, said she doesn't live near the airport, but came to learn more about the issue.

She said she was disturbed by the airport officials focus on individual property owners.

“It will affect the whole community,” she said of the tree cutting. “It will affect Seneca Park. That's what bothers me.”

Authority spokeswoman Trish Burke said after the meeting that her office has emphasized local homeowners because they are the one who are going to be most affected.

Estimates of how many trees would need to be cut vary.

Michael Hayman, the Seneca Gardens arborist, estimates as many as 1,000. Miller earlier told a reporter it could be as many as 200 but that officials won't know until they conduct a survey.

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