Airport Is Denied Purchase Of Land Phila. International Wants To Expand. Tinicum Fears Noise Pollution And The Loss Of Tax Revenues.

Posted: February 23, 2000

TINICUM — In what they called an effort to preserve the character and quality of life of their community, township commissioners halted another attempt by Philadelphia International Airport to spread farther into the township by way of a $90 million property purchase of the former Scott Plaza building.

The Board of Commissioners on Monday night declined to vote on a proposal by the airport to buy what is known as International Plaza, about 15 acres on Route 291. Airport representatives sent the township a detailed plan last Wednesday and pressed for a decision by Monday's meeting, township officials said.

"They wanted an answer, and we couldn't do that," Board President William Wasch said. "The terms we were given weren't anywhere close to being what we would accept."

Airport officials said they were still willing to negotiate.

Though airport representatives reached an accord with K/B Fund II, the property's owner, a 1998 agreement requires township approval of any airport expansion. The agreement stands until 2004.

At issue, commissioners and residents said, are increased noise pollution and a loss in tax revenues for both the township and the Interboro School District.

"The people are telling us they're tired of the noise, but the airport is moving closer to homes. I think the people in this town are tired of having the airport shoving monies down their throat," Commissioner Adam German Jr. said.

Fred Testa, the airport's director, said noise pollution would not be a problem around the property, which is just west of the airport.

"It's nowhere near anybody's homes," Testa said. "It's right in the airport, right next to a commercial development."

The plan is not to expand runways, which would increase the noise of planes, Testa said. Instead, the plaza - three office buildings, a parking lot, and an airport parking operation - would be left as is for several years before a cargo area would be built in its place, he said.

"Some people don't consider it noise pollution; some consider it moneymaking," Testa said.

Testa said the airport, now squeezing a massive operation into 2,400 acres, needs to expand.

"It just makes sense for us to own that property," he said. The land would allow the airport to run its cargo more efficiently, he said.

But also of concern is a loss in tax revenue, Board Vice President Norbert J. Poloncarz said.

Based on an assessment of $3.75 million, the plaza property brings the township more than $90,000 annually in tax revenue and the school district about $775,000, Poloncarz said.

If the buildings were torn down, he said, the district stood to lose half its revenues.

"This is one of the most monumental decisions affecting the homeowners of this community, and it is being done in the back room without their knowledge," he said. "The people have to be included."

Testa said he and other airport officials are willing to do that. "We'll continue to talk," he said. "There's nothing wrong with talking."

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