October 24, 2014
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Citizen concerns overlooked by airport planners

To the Editor:

I would appreciate the opportunity to address a recent Letter to the Editor from Ms. White and misters Mancini and Sabitoni entitled: “Positive benefits of airport expansion to state’s economy.”

While everyone can appreciate the need for jobs and a safe, efficient state airport system, this letter best demonstrates the gap in understanding that exists between the citizen stakeholders and the other stakeholders that was created by the airport planners when they decided to stop listening to, and addressing, the legitimate concerns of the citizen stakeholder representatives; and worse, actually separated the citizen stakeholder group apart from the rest of the airport planning stakeholders for the remainder of the airport planning process. This act of excluding the Warwick City Council’s appointed representatives from due consideration within the pre-planning and planning processes caused a critical flaw within the federal planning process. The above referenced letter stands as an example of the misunderstanding caused by this failure to include the citizens’ concerns appropriately within the airport planning process. The following is a quote from that letter:

“…While we recognize the Council’s right to challenge the ROD [Record of Decision], it is nevertheless troubling that a means within the EIS [Environmental Impact Statement] process could not have accommodated their interests. Commencing a formal legal challenge has already increased costs and delayed the employment of construction trades people in this time of severe economic hardship…”

Before an FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] EIS process could even begin, there is a requirement for pre-planning to occur to determine the actual need for an EIS. A fatal flaw happened within the pre-planning process when the planners abruptly announced that they were no longer going to consider the concerns of the citizen stakeholders. This happened right after a 30-day study within a workgroup composed of representatives from all of the stakeholder groups. On the evening that the summary report from this united group was to be presented to the full body of planners, the process was abruptly cut short and a declaration made that “enough time had been spent.” The summary of the citizens’ concerns was never reviewed by the entire planning group.

It got worse. Obvious efforts were made to isolate the citizen group from the rest of the stakeholder groups. Then, it was announced that the planners had decided to approve the project for an FAA EIS process, without addressing the citizens’ legitimate concerns. It was, in fact, troubling at the time, “that a means within the EIS process could not have accommodated” the concerns. It could not due to the restrictive nature of this phase of the airport planning process. This was clearly not the Warwick City Council’s fault, whose citizen appointees to the pre-planning process were shut out of the process prematurely.

The formal legal challenge to the EIS process is a structured component of the FAA Airport Planning Process as authorized by Congress. It is there for the exact purpose of contesting the FAA ROD, which is the formal product of the EIS process.

If there are any “villains” to be identified in the current situation, I would suggest one look to the airport planners who decided to bypass the concerns of an entire stakeholder group, which may have allowed their desired goal to appear in the ROD, but unfortunately, corrupted the process, making a challenge necessary.

Don’t blame the Warwick City Council for the current delay. Had appropriate due care, due consideration and due diligence been applied to the pre-planning process, the valid concerns of the citizen stakeholders would have been addressed by now. In these undeniably troubled fiscal times, the Warwick City Council is to be commended for attempting to ensure that careless quick fixes are not being disguised as economic solutions. Economic engines are important, but they must run clean and be properly sized to their containers, especially when that container is located in the heart of a densely residential land use area.

Raleigh M. Jenkins
Warwick


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