Mayor Bill Mutz said today he is optimistic that federal officials will approve the first phase of Lakeland’s air traffic noise mitigation plan this fall and implementation can begin by December.
His comments came at a City Commission agenda review session this morning after Commissioner Stephanie Madden said she has been getting many emails complaining about noise from cargo jets approaching and leaving Lakeland Linder International Airport.
Mutz acknowledged that he understands that noise is a real concern; jets approaching Linder from the east fly over his home in the Lakeland Highlands, he said. But he urged commissioners to “just stay the course and let the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) do its work.”
That work includes ongoing discussions between the FAA, Airport Director Gene Conrad and the companies that fly jets into and out of Amazon’s Lakeland air cargo facility about changes in flight paths and altitudes.
The first phase of the noise mitigation plan involves diverting incoming flights that now cross over the Highlands; instead, those flights would come in over the Polk Parkway where fewer residents will be affected, Conrad said.
The next phase involves departing flights that currently turn north and fly over the Grasslands community. The proposal is to route those flights to the east over the Polk Parkway and get quickly up to 3,000 feet, where they could level off and reduce power, Conrad said. The flights are currently restricted to 2,000 feet over much of Lakeland. That phase is likely to take a few months longer to approve because of pending work on a Metroplex plan, Conrad said.
“We are working on something very proactively that we feel very positively will be successful,” Mutz told the commission. “The implementation is probably Decemberish; in other words the decision will be made, October-Novemberish by the FAA.”
Conrad acknowledged that he received a large number of emails about noise issues last week and into the start of this week and he understands city commissioners received them, too. Monday was the deadline for citizens to submit their comments to him about Amazon’s plans to more double the size of its air cargo facility at Lakeland Linder airport, he said, and he has only received two or three since they tapered off after Monday’s deadline.
Nearly 200 people came to an information session and public hearing last Thursday on Amazon’s plans to expand. (View a video here.) The hearing was held so that the FAA could get public input on the environmental impacts of Amazon’s expansion.
Conrad said he expects to get an FAA response on the environmental assessment in July.