Final public meeting on PDK airport’s growth plans focus on noise, pollution

Kids watch from a playground as a jet moves along the tarmac at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on Feb. 2, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Kids watch from a playground as a jet moves along the tarmac at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport on Feb. 2, 2019. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

DeKalb County residents took advantage of one last chance to speak up on DeKalb-Peachtree Airport’s proposed 20-year growth plan, which calls for plane traffic to increase by more than a third.

At a meeting Thursday night, residents brought up concerns about increased noise and pollution for nearby neighborhoods in addition to general worries of increased growth over the coming decades. The 765-acre general aviation airport — more commonly called “PDK” after its official FAA designation — is surrounded by residential neighborhoods in Brookhaven and Chamblee.

Airport officials predict a 37% increase in takeoffs and landings by 2040, requiring new hangars, a renovated administrative building and several other maintenance projects.

The airport currently has about 160,000 annual takeoffs and landings and predicts that will rise by roughly 58,000 over the next 20 years. PDK mostly does not service commercial passenger flights and is instead used for smaller planes. It’s the 11th busiest airport in the country for corporate jets.

An on-site aviation museum is also included in the airport’s long-term proposal. In total, the airport’s 20-year master plan estimates nearly $79 million worth of upgrades during that period.

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“We suffer from a constant stream of larger jets flying low on approach or take-off overhead,” resident Jaime Dutro said during Thursday night’s master plan open house, which was held virtually. “We know that our quality of life is significantly negatively affected by the noise and annoyance especially of jet aircraft.”

Michael Baker International was hired to complete the master plan, which is expected to go to the FAA and Georgia Department of Transportation for approval.

Larry Foster, who is with community watchdog organization PDK Watch, questioned how the airport could justify increasing operations against the wishes of many residents who live in the airport’s shadow, claiming that corporate jet owners would be the primary beneficiary.

“Corporate jets serve a very small and privileged percent of the population but contribute greatly to both air and noise pollution in surrounding residential and business communities...,” his comment said. “How can the benefits to so few be justified against the health, safety, and quality of life of so many residents and small businesses in the area?”

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Jim Duguay, an airport planning consultant for Michael Baker International, said the benefits to the community come through the jobs and economic activity the airport provides to the region.

“The airport is a huge economic generator for DeKalb County and the area,” he said, referring to the airport’s $16 million of annual state and local tax revenue. “It is one of the number one assets for DeKalb County.”

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This is the PDK administration building, which was built in the 1940s.

Credit: Michael Baker International

This is the PDK administration building, which was built in the 1940s.

Credit: Michael Baker International

caption arrowCaption
This is the PDK administration building, which was built in the 1940s.

Credit: Michael Baker International

Credit: Michael Baker International

Mario Evans, PDK’s director, added that the master plan does not include any zoning or flight path changes, both of which are the FAA’s jurisdiction. While newer jets are quieter than older models, the increase in flight volume makes it difficult to predict whether noise levels will increase or decrease significantly.

The master plan now goes to the FAA and Georgia Department of Transportation for review next year. Updates to the master plan will be posted to pdkmasterplan.com.

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