Residents arguing Chicago O’Hare noise has hurt property value win assessment appeal on local property tax
New flight paths begun in autumn 2013 to reduce airport delays and increase capacity, have generated record numbers of complaints about aircraft noise around O’Hare. Now several home owners have managed to get the amount they pay in local property taxes cut, because the value of their homes has been reduced – because of the flight path overhead. They have got reductions of around 8 – 12% depending on their location. The cuts in their tax bills are small, in relation to the amount lost in the fall of their property’s value. But if the same cuts in tax were awarded to thousands of others, a dent would be felt in the amount of money being raised by the county authorities. A local politician, and academic, wondered whether this would require the taxes of others – not under flight paths – to rise, in order to make up the shortfall. The homeowners who sought the tax reductions are members of the “Fair Allocation in Runways” coalition, which advocates a more equitable distribution of runway use, to share out the noise burden. FAIR did not organize the property tax appeal effort, but they hope it will finally persuade local Mayor Rahm Emanuel to meet the group to discuss the problems. Studies are being done on past data of O’Hare’s noise contour maps, house prices, (sale price and listed price) and time on the market before sale, in noise impacted versus non-impacted areas.
Neighbors of Chicago’s O’Hare airport amp up noise complaints
BY FIONA ORTIZ
(Reuters) – Retired engineer Ed Phillips lives almost seven miles (11 km) east of O’Hare International Airport, but conversation at his home is often interrupted by the roar of low-flying jets landing at a new runway at one of the world’s busiest airports.
Across a broad swathe of northern Chicago, people who never noticed planes before now say their houses shake, they can’t sleep and their property values have dropped.
“It’s steadily gotten worse,” said Phillips. “In the summer there were a number of nights where, in my opinion, it was unacceptable to expect people to have to put up with that.”
The explosion of complaints over changed O’Hare flight patterns, and the new runway in particular, has increased pressure on the city to review noise impact monitoring.
On a recent blustery day, Phillips attended a workshop where he learned to request public data on noise from flights at O’Hare, which has more takeoffs and landings than any other airport in the world except Atlanta’s.
[There were around 911,000 aircraft movements at Atlanta airport in 2013, compared with about 883,000 at Chicago O’Hare, and – tenth in the list – about 471,000 at Heathrow in 2013. The US figures are largely domestic flights – Heathrow is higher for international flights. Link ]
He and other activists aim to generate analysis showing official data understates noise from low-elevation planes landing at a runway that began operating in October 2013 as part of a plan to increase O’Hare’s capacity and reduce delays.
The O’Hare noise hotline logged 170,000 complaints in the first nine months of 2014, five times more than in all of 2013. Even stripping out the frequent callers, complaints have risen sharply since the new runway began operating, according to an inter-governmental agency that tracks noise at O’Hare.
Donald Walsh, a safety consultant who led the workshop Phillips attended and who also lives east of O’Hare, says flights over his home jumped from 50 to 300 a day this year.
“It’s terrible. It’s pretty hard to sell a house when you have 747’s flying over and you can’t talk,” he said.
Noise complaints are common around airports worldwide, but O’Hare may be in a class of its own, with 2,400 takeoffs and landings a day in a metropolitan area of 10 million people, according to Airports Council International.
O’Hare is the No. 5 [or No 6] world airport in terms of passengers and also a major cargo hub, with a $30 billion annual impact on the local economy, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation.
U.S. Representative Mike Quigley, who represents the district that includes O’Hare, has joined the anti-noise battle.
Quigley has demanded an older runway that is scheduled to close be kept open to maintain approaches to the airport from different directions.
Phillips and Walsh are active with a coalition called the FAiR Allocation in Runways group, which wants changes including mandatory “fly quiet” rules that would force pilots to fly over less populated areas at night, more sensitive noise monitoring and a redistribution of traffic on the airport’s multiple runways.
The City of Chicago, which runs the airport, has responded to complaints and plans to install more noise monitors, said Karen Pride, spokesman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
Pride said the department has supported requests to have the Federal Aviation Administration – which regulates civil aviation – review noise impact models. She said the city will spend $120 million in coming years to help sound-insulate 4,700 residences.
The anti-noise movement has gained traction in the run-up to municipal elections in February, turning a FAiR meeting this week into a campaign stop for three mayoral candidates.
“No one anywhere in the city of Chicago should be a prisoner in their own home who can’t enjoy their back yard [ie. garden – in England],” said mayoral candidate and County Commissioner Chuy Garcia, to applause from the 200 people at the meeting.
More about Chicago O’Hare noise complaints:
Residents arguing O’Hare noise has hurt property value win assessment appeal
By Rosalind Rossi
(Chicago Sun Times)
Residents of three choice Northwest Side neighborhoods have won property tax appeals — of up to nearly 12% — after arguing that the value of their homes has taken a nosedive because of new flight patterns at O’Hare International Airport.
Those new flight paths — begun last fall to reduce airport delays and increase capacity — could end up cutting tax bills for even more homeowners, as tax assessors in Cook and DuPage counties study whether a subsequent increase in jet noise has lowered property values.
In March, the Cook County Board of Review notified three jet-noise-weary Chicago homeowners — in the Indian Woods, Sauganash and North Park neighborhoods — that they had won reductions in the assessed value of their homes. All three told the Chicago Sun-Times that their sole basis of appeal was new O’Hare jet noise, although the Board of Review also automatically studies comparable properties and sales when deciding appeals.
Two of the three won reductions after merely making impassioned pleas online, without an attorney. That included North Park homeowner Joel Frankel, 59, who won an 11.8 percent reduction.
“It was remarkably simple,’’ Frankel said. “If the whole community did this, [Mayor Rahm Emanuel] . . . would say “Oh my god! What’s happening to my tax base?’ ”
However, large-scale reductions in taxes could mean other property owners would have to pick up the slack, former Ald. Dick Simpson warned.
“People who aren’t in the sound area could get mad that they are going to have to pay more taxes because other people are getting reductions,’’ said Simpson, now a professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
‘The gates of hell’
The property-tax-appeal strategy is the latest salvo from Northwest Side residents infuriated by new jet noise that accompanied an Oct. 17 change in flight patterns at O’Hare.
On that date, the airport launched its fourth parallel runway as part of the O’Hare Modernization Program and began sending 70 percent of air traffic on an east-to-west path.
That’s when “the gates of hell opened,’’ Frankel said. “It was as if you changed a two-lane street to an eight-lane highway over our house.”
The decision turned a runway that parallels Thorndale Avenue into the airport’s busiest arrival pathway — often with an approach from the lake and then directly west over the city — rather than the diagonal approach over the suburbs once commonly used. All overnight arrivals also now enter O’Hare on the Thorndale runway 70 percent of the year. That includes large, and often noisy, cargo planes, residents say.
“This morning at 4:03 a.m. I was awakened by a cargo plane that seemed like it was going to land directly on my house,’’ Diane Yost, 67, of Sauganash, said last week.
Yost presented the most research of the three homeowners. Armed with runway maps and newspaper articles, she showed up alone for her “day in court” at the Board of Review and won an 8 percent break on her home’s assessed value.
Yost and her two fellow winning appellants are members of the Fair Allocation in Runways coalition, which advocates a more equitable distribution of runway use. FAIR did not organize the property tax appeal effort, but one of its leaders, Robert Murphy, said he hopes it will finally persuade Emanuel to meet with the group.
Appeals based on airport noise should show the mayor that “people are serious about taking action,” Murphy said.
A ‘long-term project’
The three winning appellants all live in Chicago’s Jefferson Township, home to residents of the 39th, 41st and 45th wards, where complaints to the city’s 311 O’Hare Noise Hotline have skyrocketed since the new flight patterns started. Norridge, in Cook County, as well as Itasca, Wood Dale and Bensenville, all in DuPage County, also have seen massive increases in complaints.
“Noise pollution” from “flight path changes at O’Hare” is one factor that can affect the assessed value of property, Board of Review Commissioner Michael Cabonargi acknowledged in an email. Although it’s too late to appeal for the 2013 tax year, the Cook County Board of Review will be open to receive “pre-registration appeals” for the 2014 tax year in July, he said.
In addition, the office of Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios — usually the first step in a Cook County appeal — expects to open its window for 2014 Jefferson Township appeals in August.
Berrios’ office will be conducting a massive analysis of nearly 15 years of studies on jet noise at major airports throughout North America; 2,000 pages of information filed as part of an environmental impact study of the modernization program; O’Hare noise contour maps; and sales prices, listing prices and time on the market in impacted versus non-impacted areas, said Tom Jaconetty, the office’s deputy of valuations and appeals.
“This is an ongoing and long-term project that will take time,’’ Jaconetty said by email.
At the earliest, the study’s results could be reflected on reassessment notices homeowners will receive in 2015, officials said. If those assessed values are appealed in 2015, changes could be reflected on second-installment tax bills mailed out in 2016.
In DuPage County, Addison Township Assessor Chris Kain has already started his legwork. Kain has been out in his car three to four times since the new runway pattern launched, listening for jet noise in three suburbs he assesses — Wood Dale, Itasca and Bensenville.
Kain also plans to closely monitor sales prices and the time homes spend on the market to see if adjustments should be made on 2015 tax bills.
“As soon as there’s an impact on sales price, as well as a disruption in the quality of life, then I want to be able to adjust [a home’s assessed valuation],’’ Kain said. “Until that happens, is it a 20, 30 or 40 percent loss? ‘The planes are flying overhead,’ property owners say. ‘It’s worth less.’ How much less is it worth?”
Life with a white-noise machine
Yost said she’s been living with “noise-canceling” earbuds and a white noise machine since the barrage of plane noise started. She wonders if she will ever want to open her windows or use her sun porch again.
“We’re getting blasted,’’ Yost said of her once-quiet Sauganash neighborhood. Some days, she said, she can see three columns of planes, lined up like a “string of pearls,’’ flying over her house.
“It’s like the blitz,’’ Yost said.
“I live 10 miles from the airport. I never had airplanes over me for 14 years. They moved the airplanes over me.”
Frankel, 12½ miles from O’Hare, prefers music to drown out the jet noise. Joyce Viglione, eight miles away from one of the world’s busiest airports, just keeps the TV on.
Viglione, 70, said she hopes winning a 5.5 percent cut to the assessed valuation of her Indian Woods home will make a difference in her tax bill, especially amid “all this talk of increasing property taxes” to cover a massive city pension bill.
Yost said that opening her notice from the Board of Review was a “vindication.’’ She was so taken aback by the news, “I had to look at it twice.’’
But, Yost said, “It’s still a small pittance. If I go to sell my house, so what if my property taxes are reduced? I am still going to take a bigger hit than a year ago because of the planes.
“What I really want is a more fair allocation of runways.’’
Chicago O’Hare airport new runway & flightpaths creating huge opposition by those now over-flown
Chicago O’Hare airport currently has many runways but not all can be used simultaneously. The airport has been building more, reducing the lengths of others, to get three parallel runways can be used together. There has been a lot of controversy about the plans over many years, with compulsory purchase of land, from residents who did not want to move. There is now huge protest against the noise. A group representing city and suburban home-owners, the Fair Allocation in Runways Coalition (FAiR), is asking the Chicago Aviation Commissioner to resign or for the Mayor to fire her. FAiR say there is “mounting frustration over the lack of response from the Mayor on possible remedies concerning “the ceaseless airplane noise” since air-traffic patterns were changed last autumn. The Aviation Commissioner has refused to consider altering the use of runways at night to spread out jet noise instead of concentrating it over one or two air corridors. FAiR says she has made up her mind that there will be no change at O’Hare no matter how many citizens demand change, no matter what solutions are proposed and no matter how devastating the impact of her decisions on families, children and seniors, and even entire neighbourhoods.