Chicago Executive Airport has kicked off a process for a proposal that could bring federal grant money to soundproof homes most affected by jet noise.
Federal Aviation Administration officials and airport consultants were among those who answered questions from a steady stream of visitors, who also left written comments, over two hours at an open-house-style public meeting Tuesday night at the Ramada Plaza Chicago North Shore hotel in Prospect Heights bordering the facility.
In addition, residents got to view noise exposure maps expected to decide the homes that would qualify for the federal soundproofing program. The public comment period ends Dec. 8.
FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro said the agency will receive a Chicago Executive report regarding the soundproofing idea, but there is no timeline on when the agency would decide whether to recommend the federal grant money for the project.
"We have to know what kind of noise mitigation may be needed, not only today, but looking out five years from now," Molinaro said during the open house.
"So, that way, if they ask for (federal) taxpayer money to help them with homes and schools, at least we have an up-to-date idea of who really would need that kind of money."
Chicago Executive board members this month voted against spending about $80,000 on a study required to test the effectiveness of a "310 departure" procedure -- a six-month trial program to divert airplanes from homes and over an industrial district in Wheeling from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
Instead, the board wants to use the funds for future soundproofing projects through a program largely funded by the FAA that helps residents hit hardest by jet noise to insulate their homes. Chicago Executive board Chairman D. Court Harris declined to comment on the decision when asked at Tuesday's open house.
As part of the program, the FAA would pay for 90 percent of the cost, while Chicago Executive would cover 10 percent.
The board announced plans to spend up to $350,000 on the program, which could translate into $3.5 million in total relief for affected homes.
However, some residents living near the airport co-owned by Wheeling and Prospect Heights are critical of the soundproofing project. Wheeling resident Phil Mader said he's concerned his home, built in the early 1990s, is too new to qualify under federal guidelines for soundproofing with grant money.
Steve Neff, a Wheeling resident who serves on an airport noise committee, contends diverting airplanes over industrial buildings could mean fewer homes fall in the noisiest area that qualifies for soundproofing in the federal program.
Comments on the soundproofing proposal may be emailed to airport consultant Jen Wolchansky at email@example.com. Denver-based Mead and Hunt Inc. is working for Chicago Executive on the project.