Foes of F-35 jet project hope referendum will change plans
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — Opponents of a plan to base 18, F-35 fighter jets at the Burlington International Airport hope the results of a non-binding referendum by Burlington voters will prompt the Air Force to change those plans.
James Marc Leas, a leader of the group Save Our Skies Burlington, said Wednesday that 55 percent of city voters who cast ballots favored the idea of having the City Council ask the Air Force to cancel its plans to bring the airplanes to the airport.
“This is a huge victory for the people of Burlington, South Burlington, Winooski and all the other towns around the airport,” Leas said after Tuesday’s vote.
Newly re-elected Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the matter. But after the ballot results became known Tuesday he said the city was a long way from asking Air Force officials to change their minds. He said he and the City Council would look at the issue.
“I’m very mindful that we made this decision years ago,” Weinberger said.
The Vermont National Guard said in a statement that it would continue to update Vermont residents about its progress to bring the planes , the first of which are due to arrive in late 2019, to the airport.
“We are proud to serve Vermonters and excited to receive the F-35s,” the statement said.
Opponents argued the new jets would be too loud and they could pose a safety threat. The opponents’ efforts to block the planes failed in both state and federal courts.
Bringing the planes to Vermont has been favored by state and local officials who say they will provide hundreds of well-paying jobs for the community.
The airport where the planes will be located is in South Burlington, but it is owned by the city of Burlington.
The ballot initiative was placed on Burlington’s Town Meeting Day ballot after a petition drive gathered sufficient signatures.