2017-06-15 / Front Page

Airport neighbor rallies residents for negotiations

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer


Biddeford resident Ray Tardif points to a row of trees on his property he worries may be scheduled for removal in the coming year. Tardif understands he doesn’t have a choice in the matter but would like an opportunity to meet and speak with city and airport officials to discuss the removal process. (Grant McPherson photo) Biddeford resident Ray Tardif points to a row of trees on his property he worries may be scheduled for removal in the coming year. Tardif understands he doesn’t have a choice in the matter but would like an opportunity to meet and speak with city and airport officials to discuss the removal process. (Grant McPherson photo) BIDDEFORD – The city of Biddeford and Biddeford Municipal Airport are working together to obtain avigation easements from landowners whose properties are adjacent to the airport. An avigation easement allows the city to make necessary alterations to the property and the airport needs these easements to comply with Federal Aviation Administration standards.

Biddeford Airport Manager Kris Reynolds said FAA regulations have become stricter since 9/11 and there is an increased focus on maintaining the safest approach into the airport possible. Reynolds said there are trees that surround the airport that have grown high enough to encroach upon the approach path. He said this can create a potential hazard for pilots and he hopes to work with landowners to clear any possible obstructions.


Biddeford Airport Manager Kristopher Reynolds, left, and Biddeford Facilities Manager Philip Radding in front of the north end runway of the Biddeford airport. The two men want to keep the airport running and adhering to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. (Grant McPherson photo) Biddeford Airport Manager Kristopher Reynolds, left, and Biddeford Facilities Manager Philip Radding in front of the north end runway of the Biddeford airport. The two men want to keep the airport running and adhering to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. (Grant McPherson photo) “Right now our goal is to bring the airport up to FAA standards,” Reynolds said. “Once we have done that we can revisit the master plan and look at what kinds of improvements we can do to help benefit the city and community. We want to make sure the fence is up to FAA standards as well but it is a costly project.”

Rick Laverriere, chairman of the Airport Commission, and former city councilor, said the FAA provides of 90 percent of airport funding while the state and city split the remaining 10 percent. Laverriere said the money comes from a portion of every airplane ticket sold and is used for airports across the country.

“For a $950,000 project the city pays $50,000,” Laverriere said. “That’s a bargain. As far as taxes it’s a moot point.”

Biddeford resident Ray Tardif, whose property already has an easement that dates back to the 1980s, said he doesn’t want to see the trees on his property cut down but understands the city has a right to do so. Tardif said he would like to sit down and discuss the easement process with city officials but the two most recent commission meetings have been cancelled. Tardif said he plans to talk to his neighbors and get their perspective on the city removing their trees.

On May 8 Tardif wrote an email to City Manager Jim Bennett that his son-in-law had repeatedly asked Laverriere and another commission member for a list of residents who may be asked for an easement for the project.

“That request was denied several times since February,” Tardif wrote. “We would like to meet with these people to discuss our rights as airport neighbors.”

In the same email he filed a Freedom of Access Act Request, which was granted May 16, and is available on the city website.

“I tell people eventually we can get together and put some pressure on the city to find out exactly what they are going to do,” Tardif said.

Matt Caron, senior airport planner with Gale Associates, Inc. said in an email the airport plans to remove trees starting in 2020 once negotiations with property owners is completed. Caron said an appraiser hired by the airport is still in the process of determining the fair market value for the easements in accordance with FAA standards.

Tardif said he would personally like to see the airport closed. He said he remembers when a twin engine plane landed in a house near his own home about five years ago. He said he went to view the crash after a call from his daughter-in-law and saw the house engulfed in flames.

Tardif said he understands the city voted in 2008 to keep the airport open, but would like to see more of an ongoing discussion. He said the airport is hardly busy enough to justify the money being spent to keep it open, regardless of who is paying for it.

“Anybody that’s involved with the airport, their main interest is what’s good for them, not what’s good for Biddeford,” Tardif said. “That’s what irks me.”

Reynolds said he hopes for the best outcome on the properties that surround the airport. He said the airport will loam and seed the area where trees used to stand to leave as little disturbance behind as possible.

“Each property is different,” Reynolds said. “The approach path is higher, further from the airport. Every property with easements will vary in terms of allowed height.”

Reynolds said he wants to the airport to be a good neighbor to Biddeford residents. The airport will host an open house 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19 to raise funds for Angel Flight, a nonprofit organization that provides free air transportation for people in rural areas in need of critical health care. He said the fire department will attend and several businesses have already donated raffle prizes. Reynolds said the airport will also host its second blood drive on Veteran’s Day this year.

“The open house is all volunteers and donations, it doesn’t cost the city anything,” Reynolds said. “I hope people come down to the airport and see the things going on down here.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com

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