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Expansion Plans At Georgia’s 2nd Busiest Airport Put Neighbors On Edge

DeKalb-Peachtree Airport expects a 37 percent increase in the number of airplanes coming in and out of the airport over the next 20 years.
DeKalb-Peachtree Airport expects a 37 percent increase in the number of airplanes coming in and out of the airport over the next 20 years.
Credit David Tulis / Associated Press
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It’s sometimes easy to forget the second-busiest airport in the state is nestled inside the Perimeter in northern DeKalb County.

It’s not so easy for Chris Kaiser, who lives in Brookhaven just blocks away from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. He said noise from planes flying over his house have been an annoyance in recent years.

“There was a point when I would get woken up constantly around midnight from planes,” he said. “Then I got ear plugs.”

Things could get even louder for residents. PDK expects a 37 percent increase in the number of airplanes coming in and out of the airport over the next 20 years. In keeping up with that growth, the airport hopes to build eight new hangars for corporate jets near Clairmont Road, near the border with Brookhaven.

Those plans have put neighbors in two cities on edge about the possibility of increased noise and air pollution, and the loss of hundreds of trees on the 19 acres where the hangars will be built. But officials say the airport will be vigilant about keeping sound at non-disruptive levels, and that innovations in aircraft technology should help mitigate the concerns over the coming decades.

“We try to educate them on airport operations, about the noise in and out, the noise thresholds that we have here,” said Mario Evans, the airport director at PDK. “We both have to communicate and work together, and it does take time. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”

The airport — more commonly known as “Peachtree DeKalb Airport” or just “PDK” by its official FAA designation — is a general aviation airport, meaning it does not service commercial passenger flights and is instead used for smaller planes.

Its location, near I-85 and I-285 and not far from Buckhead, makes it a popular destination for corporations like Waffle House and Southern Company, who have jets stationed at PDK. It is located in the city of Chamblee, managed by DeKalb County and subject to guidelines and regulations from the FAA. PDK is also the third-largest payer of property taxes in DeKalb County, according to its website.

Last year, 355 aircraft were based at PDK. The airport predicts that will grow to about 490 by 2040, according to a presentation given to the DeKalb County Commissioners in April.

PDK also plans to see more than 218,000 flights in and out by 2040, compared to the 159,493 flights it saw last year. It represents a rebound in business for the airport, which had about 230,000 flights going in and out 20 years ago.”

The aviation industry is growing and the numbers get higher every year,” Evans said.

While the airport has been undergoing a master planning process for months, the issue of the hangars reawakened the concerns from neighbors. Airport officials are expected to attend a Chamblee City Council meeting Thursday, where the Council will consider an application related to the new hangars. The airport needs special approval to add barbed wire and circumvent other design guidelines for security reasons.

Years ago, the FAA instructed the airport that it needed to build a bed of softer material at the end of a runway to stop planes that go too far when landing.

The airport cut down a number of trees to get dirt to use for the project. Where the trees were removed is the planned location for the eight new corporate hangars, new lanes and a fire department building, according to a zoning application the airport filed with the city.

When the development is completed, the airport will have removed 259 trees, but plans to replant over 1,100 trees and shrubs on airport property.

The changes will bring airport activity closer to Clairmont Road, though Evans said it should not affect the neighboring Brookhaven communities. He pointed out there would still be a 40- to 80-foot buffer between the hangers and the closest buildings.

Evans also said PDK has a noise office that investigates complaints if something is considered too loud. He hopes that improvements in plane technology will lead to quieter aircraft that emit less air pollution. He said the airport walks a “thin line” of supporting growth, while educating and not disturbing nearby residents.

John Park, a member of the Brookhaven City Council, represents the portion of the city adjacent to the airport. He said he has heard from residents concerned about increased noise and pollution from jet fuel.

“You hear noise all the time. I live near the airport; I knew that when I moved in,” Park said. “It’d be nice if they didn’t build (the hangars), but they probably will. It’s just one of the difficulties of leaving near the airport.”