Airport noise mitigation benefits will vary in Southwest

After years of battling with the airport over excessive noise, many Southwest residents will finally receive mitigation products for their homes. The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) has agreed to provide roughly $127 million worth of products, such as air conditioning and insulation, to around 9,000 homeowners in Minneapolis, Eagan and Richfield.

The settlement is the result of a 2005 lawsuit against the MAC on behalf of the cities, asking the organization to make good on its promise to install noise mitigation benefits in thousands of homes after the airport expanded in the mid-1990s.

The agreement is based on 2005 and 2007 maps that measure the area’s Day-night Level (DNL), a federal metric used to determine airport noise. Those who live in the 60–64 DNL parameters according to the 2007 map will get mitigation products before those on the 2005 map — this includes the eastern half of Windom, most of Tangletown, 17 square blocks in Lynnhurst, and seven square blocks in southern Kingfield.

The first square block scheduled to receive the benefits in Southwest consists mostly of apartment buildings and businesses on the corner of Diamond Lake Road and Stevens Avenue, located within the 63–64 DNL. Any single-family home on this block will get the full five-decibel noise reduction package, which, depending on improvements needed, could include central air conditioning, storm windows, door replacements, insulation, baffling of roof vents and chimney treatment. Construction for this block is scheduled to finish by Dec. 31, 2009.

The rest of the eligible homeowners in Southwest fall inside the 60–62 DNL contour lines and won’t get the products for a few years. Single-family houses will be eligible for central air conditioning and up to $4,000 worth of additional noise mitigation products chosen from a MAC menu. Homeowners who already have central air conditioning as of Sept. 1, 2007 or don’t want it can get up to $14,000 worth of products on the menu, such as storm doors or attic insulation. Construction on these houses is expected to finish by Dec. 1, 2012.

Multifamily homes, or buildings with more than three living units, in the 60–64 DNL will receive permanent air conditioners with acoustical covers by Dec. 1, 2010.

Once those homes are finished, the MAC will use $7 million to provide products to residents who live in houses in which the previous owners opted out of the noise mitigation program, but would now like to opt-in. Any remaining money will go toward installing products in homes that fall in the 60–64 DNL based on the 2005 map. In Southwest, this generally includes homes one square block away from those included in the 2007 DNL contour.

As part of the agreement, all of the homes on a block that touches the DNL contour lines will be eligible for benefits.

If residents move out of their houses within two years of receiving the noise mitigation benefits, they must reimburse the MAC for 25 percent of the products, up to $3,500.

So far, only one block in Tangletown received noise mitigation products from the MAC under its original mitigation program that began several years ago.

"It’s working out really well," said Ginna Kellott, one of the Tangletown residents who received the full five-decibel package in 2000. "There’s no way we would’ve been able to purchase that on our own."

Judge Stephen Aldrich, who presided over the case, has until mid-January to approve the terms of the settlement. Residents are also waiting for his decision on a similar, class action lawsuit against the MAC from residents in Minneapolis, Eagan and Richfield. Their settlement, reached this spring, was for the MAC to provide $65 million to 4,413 single-family homes in the 60–64 DNL, which is about half of the new cities’ settlement.

For more information, visit macnoise.com/maps.