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January 21. 2013 9:50PM

Keene hopes to solve pine problem at its airport


A project to remove large pines near the edge of the Keene Dillant-Hopkins Airport runway is getting public input through a committee appointed by Mayor Kendall Lane. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)

KEENE - Mayor Kendall Lane has appointed a community liaison committee to work with city-hired consultants on the Keene Dillant-Hopkins Airport tree-cutting project, he said.

The Keene-owned airport sits just over the city line in North Swanzey.

Last summer, Federal Aviation Administration officials told the city to remove large pines on both airport and private property because the trees hinder flight instruments.

"It could be very dangerous. We have not had a crash as a result of it yet. But we certainly could. It interferes with the operation of instruments in planes landing on the main runway," Lane said.

Residents of the Keene neighborhood of Edgewood, which abuts the airport, expressed concerns that the removal of the trees would lead to a significant increase in noise, Lane said.

He added: "All of a sudden they will be able to see the airport where currently they can't see the airport."

There are also environmental concerns, he said.

"Even though it's in Swanzey, the area between Edgewood and the airport is a wetlands area that has been undisturbed for a long, long time and they are concerned about that being disturbed," Lane said.

As a public hearing wrapped up in December, Lane told the public he would find a way for the Edgewood residents to address their issues as the project is planned.

Thursday, he appointed several community members to a committee to work with the consultants. Until the problem is resolved, the main runway is not being used after dark, Lane said.

Edgewood residents have made alternative suggestions, such as changing the path of the main runway, he said.

The community liaison group includes three Edgewood residents, a city conservation commission member, a C&S Wholesale Grocers pilot, an Antioch University New England professor of environmental studies and state Rep. Alfred "Gus" Lerandeau, D-Swanzey.

"We feel that the neighbors have some very legitimate concerns and the impacts of doing this need to be minimized," Lane said.

The three Edgewood residents are to represent their neighborhood.

"It would be difficult for the consultants to work with 70 to 80 people, all of whom have different concerns," Lane said.

The Keene Dillant-Hopkins Airport was established in 1943. It has two runways on approximately 1,000 acres.

The small airport is used by private pilots and corporations; there are no commercial flights.

"From an economic point of view the airport is very important to the city. Employers like C&S Wholesale Grocers use the airport and are located in Keene primarily because of the access to the airport," Lane said. "The airport has a fairly significant role in the economy of this region."

mpierce@newstote.com



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