The Metropolitan Council of Governments, splitting along regional lines, voted yesterday to kill the National Airport "scatter plan" -- an action that many officials said should prevent the divisive proposal from being revived.
"It's over," said D.C. City Council member H.R. Crawford, who is chairman of the COG board, a panel made up of representatives from area governments. Crawford had cast the key COG vote two years ago that called on the Federal Aviation Administration to implement the plan in an effort to spread the noise of departing National Airport jets over more of the Washington area.
The test lasted only 89 days but it created a firestorm of controversy, as Crawford and other officials acknowledged yesterday. "I've had more telephone calls and inquiries on this than anything ever on the council or COG," Crawford said.
As Maryland representatives dissented, COG's board of directors agreed to tell the FAA that "the time has come to terminate" the plan.
"We should inform the FAA that no further action should take place," said Arlington County Board Member Ellen M. Bozman, seconding the motion from Fairfax County Board Vice Chairman Martha Pennino to kill the plan. The FAA, itself inundated with complaints during the test, has said it would not implement the plan again unless COG requested it.
The test began Oct. 10, 1983, and pitted residents and representatives of the area against one another. While many Maryland and some District residents said they got relief from jet noise, many others in the District and Virginia were exposed to high levels of noise for the first time.
As a result, the Maryland representatives to COG fought again yesterday to get the plan implemented permanently, but were outnumbered by those from the District and Virginia. The vote, calculated on a percentage-of-population formula, was 72 to 51 for ending the scatter plan.
The only Maryland representative to vote to end the plan was Takoma Park's Sammie Abbott. He did not explain his vote but said later he expected he would have to answer for it.
The vote, taken after months of sometimes bitter debate, came after Crawford said he would limit speeches on the issue to three minutes. Prince George's County Council member William B. Amonett complained that that would leave insufficient time to present radar track maps he said showed the scatter plan helped more people than it hurt. "This is a gag rule," Amonett said, a charge others from Maryland echoed.
D.C. council member Betty Ann Kane said any discussion of the noise problems should call attention to the need for long-range solutions to the area's airport problems. But she said that prospect was "complicated" by Maryland members of a federal commission who rejected that panel's recommendation to consolidate National and Dulles International airports under an independent regional authority.
After the vote, Montgomery County Council member R. Scott Fosler, COG's president, won a unanimous vote to instruct the COG staff to come back within 30 days with recommended range of options for dealing with National Airport aircraft noise.
Eric Bernthal, a National Airport activist and supporter of the scatter plan, warned: "There's no question we'll be back to fight this on another day. If anyone thinks this is going to go away by gagging debate on it, it's not so."
Fred B. Wood, an opponent of the plan, praised the COG vote and said, "I suppose [the supporters] will keep plugging away at this. But the politics of the issue will work against them."