Resident relocation program still not over decades later

By Jon Chrisos - bio | email

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It's a project that's made a lot of noise over the years. The expansion of the airport from Standiford Field into what's now Louisville International Airport has had a huge impact on Louisville.

Thousands of families have moved, and their homes were wiped out. We discovered that program is still going on and families are still waiting to move more than two decades later.

The years have flown by since the city and county started this project back in the late 1980s. Many people remember all the drama and controversy that surrounded it then. Now there are empty lots where neighborhoods used to be, but what's surprising, is that the Resident Relocation Program is still going on 22 years later.

Nine neighborhoods and thousands of homes have been bulldozed over the years. "We've been told it's the third largest relocation program based upon airport noise in the country after Los Angeles and Atlanta," Airport Authority Attorney Burt Deutsch said.

In the beginning, homes were condemned and homeowners were forced out because of the anticipated noise impact. After a legal battle, it later became a voluntary relocation program. An aerial shot from 1988 shows a single runway and little white dots around it. Each white dot was a home, a family, and a life. Twenty-two years later there are two new runways, and most of the homes around them have been demolished.

To date 3,667 of the 3,740 eligible families have moved. That leaves 73 homes still around the airport in the impacted area. "People are still affected by airport noise. There are people out there being vigilant on their behalf to make sure everything gets done for those people, like first people," Mary Rose Evans said. Evans is a neighborhood advocate. She's not eligible to move, but she lives near the airport and fights for the rights of her airport neighbors.

"People are still suffering with it, and we hope eventually it will be done," Evans said.

So why isn't it done?

Here's what we learned after investigating the problem: of the 73 families eligible to move, more than half say they don't want to, so that leaves 35 homeowners waiting in the wings.

"We continue to make headway, but it's a slower headway," Deutsch said. "But I think conceivably we could have another couple years."

Every neighborhood and household situation is different. Evans says they're down to the cases that are tougher to resolve.

"It could be a health issue, a financial issue, or they just want to stay in the area or the neighborhood they're in," Evans explained.

The Airport Authority says it has enough money to move all the families interested in moving with $5 million from a federal grant. Eight families have offers pending.

As for airport neighbors like Mary Rose Evans, who are grounded and not eligible to move, a new program is directed at helping them. She might soon qualify for the airport's QuieterHome sound insulation program.

The airport is using a model home off Preston Highway to show eligible families what they can do to minimize noise and improve their lives. The program took flight in February. Fifty-four of the 61 eligible homeowners in Phase one are part of the program. Phase two includes 93 homes.

Contact the QuieterHome office to find out if you're eligible: 866-345-4445. Or you can visit the model home at 3034 Larue Court in Louisville.

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