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Thu Dec 20, 2012, 09:40 AM

F-35 debate: The Florida town that sued the Air Force


F-35 debate: The Florida town that sued the Air Force
7:58 PM, Dec 19, 2012
By John Briggs

Valparaiso, Fla., sued the Air Force over the basing of the F-35 at neighboring Eglin Air Force base in 2009, and Mayor John Arnold says the expensive suits, now settled, were successful in mitigating the impact of the fighter jet’s noise on residents.

The experiences of the Florida Panhandle community may hold lessons for leaders in South Burlington here in Vermont. The city has not sued the Air Force over plans to base the F-35 at Burlington’s airport, but the City Council has formally opposed the basing, and its objections have galvanized opposition in Winooski, Colchester and Burlington. South Burlington’s opposition has also animated proponents for siting the F-35 in Vermont; they’ve circulated petitions regionally signed by more than 10,000 individuals voicing support for the proposal.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger and the congressional delegation strongly support the F-35 basing. Shumlin, Weinberger, Winooski Mayor Michael O’Brien and business leaders who support the F-35 basing made a trip last week to Eglin Air Force Base to listen to the plane. The experience did not change their views.

In Florida, the Air Force had been preparing several years ago to base as many as 107 F-35s at Eglin despite noise modeling predictions that Valparaiso’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Pensacola termed “prohibitively severe” and said would have “a devastating impact” on the small town of Valparaiso.

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