July 2001 (Updated January 2002)

Contents


Community Consultation

Strong local opposition to a proposed project tends to slow down the environmental process. An EIS proceeds more rapidly and smoothly when an airport proprietor is able to build a broad core of local consensus in support of a project and to maintain a sense of trust and fair treatment with concerned communities.

  • The establishment of long-term cooperative consultation between the airport proprietor and community representatives can improve the consistency between long-range community and airport plans, making it easier to gain local consensus on individual airport projects. If there is no history of such consultation, it is better for airport proprietors to begin community discussions on a proposed project, its aviation need, anticipated impacts, and potential mitigation at the beginning of airport planning, rather than later during an EIS.
  • In some locations, a Citizens Advisory Committee has been useful in improving working relationships and communication between the airport and community. Such a committee may be established on either a permanent basis or for the duration of a specific project's planning and environmental review.
  • Factors that help to build local consensus and address opposition include:
    • Open and frank dialogue on the aviation need and the airport proprietor's initial planning, including possible alternatives;
    • An effective forum for constructive exchanges on the expected benefits, impacts, alternatives, and mitigation prospects;
    • Serious consideration of community concerns and views, including project adjustments that have merit and are possible, as well as responses to major community proposals that cannot be accommodated and the reasons why;
    • Confidence in the accuracy of the aviation and environmental technical data;
    • Confidence in the airport proprietor's and FAA's commitments to effective environmental mitigation.
    • Reasonable accessibility to FAA and airport proprietor for responses to questions and clarification of information.
  • A public outreach program is primarily the responsibility of the airport proprietor. This is often a critical area in which the airport proprietor can have a marked positive effect on the environmental process. When a proposed project is highly controversial, an airport proprietor should plan to assign or hire a skilled community relations specialist to assist in providing the optimal interface with the local community during project planning and environmental review. The specialist's expertise can help avoid unnecessary community conflicts. The participation of a community relations specialist can also avoid diverting other professional staff resources from the EIS to perform this function.
  • Informal workshops at periodic points during the planning and environmental processes tend to provide better forums for community consultation than formal public hearings. Project and environmental impact information understandable to a non-technical person should be made available at workshops. Knowledgeable people (usually a combination of airport proprietor staff, EIS consultants, and FAA) should be present to provide information and answer questions.
  • It is important to some people to make an official statement for the record at a public hearing. There should be reasonable provision for those who have made the time and effort to attend a public hearing to speak. Generally, the public accepts responsible hearing ground rules, including limits on speaking time.