Residents Fight Expansion Of Mcguire

Posted: April 19, 1992

The idea is to expand McGuire Air Force Base to ease the expected overcrowding at civilian airports in the region. The Central Jersey Citizens League for Environmental Awareness Now (CJCLEAN) wants to make sure the plan never flies.

"We just bought a house on Hopkins Road," said Matt Lammerding, who lives with his wife, Cindy, about eight miles from the base in Plumsted Township. ''The air traffic as it is is disturbing enough. We certainly don't want to see it increased."

The Lammerdings were among about 40 people, many of them members of the fledgling CJCLEAN group, who met last week at the American Legion Hall of Post 455 in New Egypt to plan a campaign against any civilian use of McGuire. Their main fear: noise and other environmental pollution.

"I am here to find out what we can do to stop the commercialization of McGuire Air Force Base," said Plumsted resident Vito D'Amato.

According to studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation,

airports such as LaGuardia in New York City will reach capacity by the mid-' 90s and traffic will have to be diverted elsewhere. Joint civilian-military use of McGuire is an option, transportation officials say, because it is difficult to build completely new airports.

But residents of surrounding communities, such as Plumsted, North Hanover and New Egypt, are worried that if such a proposal becomes reality, their quality of life could be destroyed.

According to Pete Horbatt, chairman of CJCLEAN, if joint use is realized, it would mean a plane landing every 15 minutes at McGuire and one every four minutes by 2010.

Public-service announcements on the radio, form letters, petitions and phone calls were just some of the suggestions made at the meeting to defeat the plan. Although the meeting was intended to recruit members and set forth group goals, residents was encouraged to start contacting their political representatives as soon as possible.

"We can let the politicians know just how many people are upset by this. We will also advise you what the politicians on every level are doing to help or hinder you," Horbatt told the participants.

One thing Horbatt did not ask for was donations. He said that he wanted to show people the organization will follow through on its agenda before asking people to sink hard-earned dollars into it.

"I want to show we are not just a group asking people to shell out money," he said.

This is not the first time area residents have raised concerns about the joint-use proposal, but it is the first time they are doing so as an organization.

In August, the Plumsted Environmental Commission held a meeting to hear both sides of the issue. No one spoke in favor of the expansion then. Nor did anyone speak in favor of expansion at a similar meeting in December.

But political representatives, including U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, both Democrats, have not come out directly for or against the proposal. Plumstead Mayor Ron Dancer hasn't either. North Hanover Mayor Tom D'Arcy is the only local official openly opposed to the proposed McGuire expansion.

At last week's meeting, representatives of U.S. Rep. Christopher Smith (R., Fourth District) and state Assemblyman Robert Singer (R., Ocean) encouraged residents to make their voices heard via an organized effort. Winnie Alphonse, a spokeswoman for Singer, said the assemblyman was opposed to dual use of the base.

The state Department of Transportation is conducting a feasibility study for a commerical airport at McGuire. However, the Air Force will have the last word in the matter. If the Air Force decides joint use would in any way compromise its defense mission, it can veto the proposal.

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