What’s Louder — the New Dulles Runway or the Whining About It?

It takes a lot of audacity to buy a house near an airport and then complain when changing airport operations start generating more noise. But Americans have become a nation of inveterate whiners, so nothing surprises me anymore.

The latest case in point is the Pleasant Valley community three miles from Washington Dulles International Airport. The airport, according to The Connection Newspapers, is adding a north-south runway that will cause airplanes to fly directly over Pleasant Valley. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says the airplane noise shouldn’t exceed the permissible 65-decibel level. Residents aren’t so sure, and they want a monitor installed. And what are they going to do if airplanes go over that level? Shut down the runway?

I’m sorry, but I have zero sympathy. What were these people thinking when they bought their houses? There they were, three miles from a major international airport — an airport that had ample room for growth and made no secret of its intention to expand in the future. Did they think that buying a house gave them veto rights over where the Airport located its runways and what kind of planes flew in and out?

The MWAA should make reasonable efforts to keep noise levels down. But I don’t see that the Airport is under any obligation to knock itself out. Buying a house near an airport is like buying a house next to the railroad track and complaining if the railroad company figures out a way to run its trains a little faster. Or buying a house backed up to the Interstate and complaining when the traffic increases. That’s the risk you took when you bought the house, you damn dummy!

(Hat tip to Tobias Jodter for pointing out this story. I don’t know if he’ll agree with my spin or not, but you can blame him for bringing it to my attention.)


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9 responses to “What’s Louder — the New Dulles Runway or the Whining About It?”

  1. Virginia Centrist Avatar
    Virginia Centrist

    Good post. Agree 100%.

  2. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “Did they think that buying a house gave them veto rights over where the Airport located its runways and what kind of planes flew in and out?”

    Recently one off my neighbors dropped of a notice to contiguous landowners concerning a proposed new home. The building permit in question would be an administrative one: the owner has unquestioned right to build. The lot is large enough, but apparently because of previous road construction on both sides it is not now deep enough to meet the setback requirements for this area.

    Clearly, the owner is not responsible for the planning that reduced the size of his lot through rod construction and later increased the setback requirements. In any case the remaining setbacks are still far larger than many homes, and some in the immediate area.

    Nevertheless, the notice was accompanied by additional material provided by the neighbor. Among other things, the material claimed that it was our duty to stop this. And did we want our local road to look like this? (Photo of the site with supposed superimposed home doctored in.)

    The sender did not supply their name.

    Did they think that buying a house gave them veto rights over where their neighbors locate, and what kind of home they build?

    If they are so vehement about this, why use the anonymous, inquisition-like tactics?

    I’m sorry, but I have zero sympathy. What were these people thinking when they bought their houses? There they were, two miles from a major interstate in an area that had ample room for growth and made no secret of its intention to expand in the future: the building rights in question are by-right development dating years into the past. Just because they were not previously exercised does not mean that existing neighbors have the right, let alone “the duty” to slam the door behind them.

    Buying a house near open space and then complaining when the owner wants to use it is like buying a house next to the railroad track and complaining if the railroad company figures out a way to run its trains a little faster. If my anonymous neighbor wanted to protect that open space he had decades to raise the money and buy it.

    Instead he is anonymously trying to enlist my support in what amounts to stealing from my neighbor by preventing what we should have known would someday happen. Considering that his position is a result of roads that were built to serve the rest of us, it is really a case of proposing that we steal from him – again.

  3. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Jim:

    Dulles International Airport opened in the early 60s and the additional runways were on the original plan.

    Any purchaser on a home built since 1965 (including all in Plesant Valley) should have been warned by their real estate advisor of noise potential west of a line three miles east of VA Route 28.

    The Clear Edge should have been drawn there in 1962.

    To save money, the area with the highest aircraft noise impact was zones “industirial.” “Industrial” included offices.

    Thus the “office parks” in the noise zone and the residential areas beyond.

    EMR

  4. Tobias Jodter Avatar
    Tobias Jodter

    Normally I would agree with you 100%. My own personal favorite example is the neighbors of Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas. Never mind that the racetrack has been there since the 1950’s, people still claim surprise and annoyance that their Friday and Saturday night’s are filled with noise. Why developers surrounded a racetrack with new residential is kind of strange but that’s a different story. Of course, that’s no longer going to be an issue since Stanley Martin has purchased the property and will turn my favorite summer pastime (watching local racing) into a strip mall or houses…

    I think it might be a slightly different issue in this case since it is an expansion of existing conditions that is occurring and certain assurances were and are being made that are possibly not going to be reality. That is not quite as clear-cut IMO. I thought this story was of interest because the entire residential explosion in the Dulles South area being debated currently will be the flight paths of Dulles as well.

    Loudoun County is however mixing residential and industrial re-zonings right next to the airport. Right now on Route 606 immediately adjacent to the airport property there are schools being built, housing developments across the street from proposed industrial recycling facilities and industrial warehouse. It’s a bizarre situation I think.

  5. This is one of my personal pet peeves as someone who enjoys general aviation flying (i.e. small planes). Quite a few GA airports have been saddled with silly restrictions from homeowners that moved next door to a runway then decided they didn’t like the noise. Talk to ATP pilots flying out of facilities like National and find out how much they love the special arrival and departure procedures required for noise abatement. Some of these procedures decrease significantly the margin of safety for commercial flights.

  6. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    I’m not a private pilot but I fly frequently with those who are. Craig is 100% correct. You shouldn’t have to reduce throttle and initiate a turn whil you are trying to gain altitude and trim out the plane.

  7. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Kind of reminds me of homeowners who buy houses right next to a college and then get their neighborhood association to complain and close down nightlife because there are all of these kids around and they make noise and there is commotion. Exactly what were they thinking? Good one, Jim.

  8. Anonymous Avatar
    Anonymous

    Wow, you convey your point with such empathy.. such caring concern for those of us who have to deal with airport managers, air traffic controllers and, for that matter, lawmakers who are under no obligation to be good neighbors. We’re stuck. Doesn’t that just rot for us, thankyouverymuch.

  9. PV_resident Avatar
    PV_resident

    Pleasant Valley is simply asking for a noise monitor (about $100K to install) and for fly friendly noise abatement procedures to help pilots avoid flying over homes.

    The new runway will result in much more air traffic for Dulles – meaning more revenues, including for Fairfax. A $100K noise monitor is trivial compared to a runway project costing over a billion.

    Sure, the fourth runway was in Dulles’ original plans – but it was about 1000 feet to the east of Pleasant Valley. We only learned that it was realigned to run directly down the middle of the neighborhood in 2004.

    Unlike Loudoun – Fairfax does not require home -sellers to disclose airport noise, and there is no avigation easement.

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