Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport Neighbors Protest Airport Expansion

They've organized meetings, formed a neighborhood organization and staged demonstrations.

Now, people who live in the Melaleuca Gardens neighborhood are putting their concerns into writing.

Residents of the northeast Dania Beach development will begin mailing letters to the Federal Aviation Administration objecting to the proposed expansion of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

A larger airport would involve lengthening the south runway, thereby allowing more flights into the airport.

But people who live in the approximately 400 homes in Melaleuca Gardens claim the noise and vibrations that would accompany the expansion could make their homes uninhabitable.

The neighborhood sits directly south of the airport.

Talks about expanding the airport's south runway have been ongoing for several years. The airport terminals and parking garages have been growing at a steady rate.

Federal officials are reviewing Broward County's plan to expand the runway but have not yet released an opinion, airport spokesman Jim Reynolds said.

Melaleuca Gardens residents are meeting to help each other write individual letters that express their anxiety and concerns.

The meetings give those who are uncomfortable with writing another option instead of using form letters, said City Commissioner Bob Anton, who also lives in Melaleuca Gardens.

''We all know this is heading down a path of litigation, and we need to generate a paper trail,'' Anton said.

Reynolds agreed that whatever decision is made regarding the runway will likely end up in court.

But he said he welcomes the residents' letters. He said it was another way to get input from the public.

''Everybody expects there will be lawsuits on this runway. I don't think I've talked to anybody who doesn't expect that,'' Reynolds said. ''This is part of the process, and that's fine.''

Broward aviation officials opened an outreach center last year at 550 NW 10th St., next to Melaleuca Gardens.

Residents later staged a protest against the runway in front of the center.

Studies on the airport expansion's impact on the environment and noise are still in the works, along with an update to the airport's master plan, Reynolds said.

Broward County commissioners are soon expected to select a company to conduct the noise study, he said.

A report done last year said it would take about $85 million to help pay for soundproofing homes or relocating residents.