Navy planes would undermine quality of life

Published 9:36 am Saturday, February 12, 2011

To the Editor:

This is an open letter to members of the Franklin City Council.

I know that you are listening to citizens whom you represent and to other area residents as you consider the desirability of Navy pilot training. As a fellow citizen and a friend to some of you, I would like to make several comments that I hope will be constructive as you deliberate and discuss what has become a highly polarizing issue within the area.

I would be remiss if I did not advise you that my wife, who is a local Realtor in Franklin with considerable experience, is convinced that the Navy’s presence at the airport would have a negative impact on housing values. Jim Hart, another area Realtor, has also spoken to this very point at a previous City Council meeting. My wife’s concerns were directly conveyed to the mayor by me prior to Christmas.

Please consider the degree to which the low-flying planes would be incompatible with our unique area quality of life. Were we further along with our economic recovery, the issue probably would not have crossed our radar screen. Area recovery amidst the backdrop of the sudden International Paper mill closure, along with a devastating nationwide recession, will continue to take time, unfortunately.

If a primary concern is the enforcement by the Navy of the antiquated 1947 deed, that would appear to be highly unlikely. The negative publicity that such a heavy-handed approach would encourage is not in the Navy’s best interests given the existing adverse publicity with the public at Fentress and Oceana.

Adm. John C. Harvey is also on record as stating that the situation must be a “win-win” both for our community and the Navy.

Undue time and energy have been spent on this issue by citizens, council members and the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors at the expense of higher-priority issues. The drawn-out vetting process that you chose to undertake has divided the community and pitted neighbor against neighbor as no other issue since my early days as a youth in Franklin witnessing the unpleasant civil rights environment of the 1960s. It has been counterproductive.

Adequate Navy pilot training is not the real issue. Rather, I would argue that encroachment upon a unique quality of life should be your primary focus. Low-flying planes are in direct conflict with quality of life, which must be preserved in order to attract prospective citizens who will fill our empty homes, who will build future businesses, and who will help improve our public schools within a safe environment for their families.

You do so many good things for Franklin. To delay voting on this issue at Monday night’s council meeting would not be among them, unfortunately. If you truly believe, as the mayor has stated, that our unique quality of life is “not for sale,” then a “no” vote should be cast on Monday night so that we can move on and begin to work together for the best interest of our community and its citizens.

Chuck Lilley