Residents Still Trying To Flee Bwi's Noise

August 11, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Jessie Seibert moved into her home on the western edge of Baltimore-Washington International Airport 42 years ago, content to settle downwith her husband and raise a family.

But as the airport grew, Seibert's one-story ranch home on Forest Avenue in Harmans became an unbearable place to live -- constantly rocked by jet planes taking off from a nearby runway.

"Two nights ago, I got two hours of sleep," said Seibert, who is 63 years old. "They ran into the early morning and started again at 5a.m. It seems like the nighttime traffic is worse than it ever was. You don't want to watch TV at night because you can't hear it. You get disgusted and turn it off."

Airport officials know homes such asSeibert's are too noisy to live in, and they've compiled a list of homeowners who are eligible to be bought out with state and federal grants. So far, more than 130 people have been able to move away from BWI's noise.

On Thursday, the state and federal government pledged another $8.2 million to the program, which will help an additional 37homeowners escape.

But Seibert doesn't know if she will be one ofthem. Airport officials say they still need to do more appraisals before they know for sure which 37 families in the airport noise zone can be helped.

"Every place in the United States I've been, they have the same problem," said Sen. Michael Wagner, D-Glen Burnie, whose district includes much of the airport noise zone. "We're all fightingfor the same pot of gold. We just have to make sure we get our share."

The acquisition program targets homes in the most severe part of the airport's noise zone -- the 12,100 acres around BWI that the state deems too noisy for habitation. These homes are generally locatedwest and south of BWI, from Friendship Park west along Dorsey Road to Harmans.

Homeowners to the east and southeast of the airport canparticipate in other programs, such as soundproofing and resale insurance -- a guarantee that if the homeowner sells and does not get fair market value, the state will make up the difference.

But homes such as Seibert's are in areas zoned commercial -- places where airport and economic development officials hope to attract industries that aren't affected by noise. Under the program, the state will buy the homes -- averaging about $150,000 each -- and help the families relocate.

Seibert says she wants to move to Elkridge, where she was born. "I've got a lot of memories here," she said, adding that her husband built the home. "But the noise seems to be getting worse and worse."

The state will use the new money -- $6.6 million from the Federal Aviation Administration and $1.6 million from the Maryland AviationAdministration -- to buy homes around Friendship Park and in Harmans. "They're getting bombarded down there," Wagner said. "These are oldhouses. There is nothing to do except buy them."

The acquisition program is voluntary, and the state takes people on a first-come first-served basis. In order to participate, homeowners must be in the area that averages a reading of more than 70 decibels during a 24-hour period.

The MAA, which owns and operates BWI, received a similar $9.5 million grant last year. Part of that grant also was used to acquire 36 homes were bought in Glen Brook, Hanover and Dorsey.

Between 1987 and 1990, when the noise cutoff was 75 decibels, the airport bought 60 homes, spending more than $10 million.

BWI is still applying for grants, but Michael West, associate administrator for planning and engineering, couldn't say Friday how many people are on the waiting list. In 1990, 186 homes qualified.

While some of the homes the state buys are torn down, many others are relocated to other partsof the county and used as low-income shelters, West said.

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