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Council expands Love Field study

By Suzanne Sprague

DALLAS – Suzanne Sprague, KERA 90.1 Reporter: Advocates for an expanded master plan had been calling for the new analysis for weeks. They were led yesterday by Lori Palmer, who sits on the Master Plan Committee and who once represented Love Field on the City Council. Palmer told the Council the proposal would...

Lori Palmer, Member, Love Field Master Plan Advisory Committee: ...give you the comfort of knowing more information and give us the comfort of knowing more fully the environmental analysis of scenarios of growth for the airport.

Sprague: City staff and airport consultants initially had opposed doing any noise or traffic studies, but by yesterday there were no objections from the staff or any member of the City Council. However, Councilwoman Laura Miller still pushed to expand the area around Love Field that will be evaluated for noise. She wanted to include neighborhoods with an average noise level of 45 decibels. But she ran into opposition from fellow Council member John Loza, who represents Love Field.

Laura Miller, Dallas City Councilwoman: Although we don't know the dollar figure, John, would you be open to just asking DMJM [the consultants] just to gather the data on 45 decibels, even though we might not do anything with it? But just to know what those contours look like?

John Loza, Dallas City Councilman: I am willing to follow the recommendation of the advisory committee.

Miller: So that would not be accepted as a friendly amendment, John?

Loza: No.

Sprague: Miller also complained that Highland Park residents, many of whom live in the Love Field flight path, were excluded from serving on the 45-member Master Plan Advisory Committee. City Manager Ted Benavides admitted denying a former Highland Park City Council member a seat. But Dallas Aviation Director Kenneth Gwyn defended the Advisory Committee's composition.

Kenneth Gwyn, Dallas Aviation Director: The residents of Highland Park have been incorporated into our public participation process, Ms. Miller. The City Manager of Highland Park has been an attendee of the Master Plan Advisory Committee. The notices that we send out, some 51,000 notices, that go out to the public, Highland Park is included in that.

Sprague: Gwyn added the Advisory Committee meetings were open to all residents. But then Miller pointed out one recent meeting had been ordered closed to the public until an outcry from residents reopened it. And she was furious when the city couldn't promise to keep all future meetings open to the public.

Miller: We can't sit here and say we're not going to add members to the committee because we keep the meetings open and everyone can come, and then shut the meeting down. So there are a lot of games going on, from staff on this, not from the council, not from the advisory committee, not from the neighbors or the airlines. The airlines are being very, very good about compromising with the neighborhood. The only problem is the city staff.

Sprague: Miller is a frequent critic of how city staffers interact with Dallas residents and how forthright they are with Council members. But she fought the Love Field battle alone yesterday. Residents said they were satisfied with the planned noise analysis, even if it left some neighborhoods out. And they also didn't foresee a problem with adding an Advisory Committee seat for a Park Cities resident, despite past objections from the City Manager's office. The expansion of the master plan study will add $240,000 to the $1.1 million dollar project and will delay a final report on the future of the airport until March. For KERA 90.1, I'm Suzanne Sprague.