With Concord residents and environmental advocates raising objections to a major expansion of private hangar space at Hanscom Field, the Select Board has voted to lawyer up to collect public records on the controversial proposal.
The Board voted unanimously at its most recent meeting to retain Boston environmental firm McGregor Legere & Stevens to file requests for documents related to the potential deal under the Freedom of Information Act.
The expansion proposed by Runway Realty Ventures and North Airfield Ventures would add 27 hangars to Hanscom. The airfield borders Concord and three other communities — Bedford, Lexington and Lincoln — and its air traffic affects an even larger area.
The Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, which operates the site, supports the plan as a way to accommodate growing private jet traffic in the region. But the expansion has come under heavy fire from neighbors and environmental groups who say it will inundate the area with pollution and noise as it caters to wealthy private jet owners.
While soliciting public opinion, putting up yard signs and raising objections with elected officials are all part of the process, “what is going to have the most serious effect on this is challenging the environmental review, [which] is a technical and legal process,” Select Board Chair Henry Dane said.
“Our thought,” he continued, “was that the best expenditure of our time and money was to engage the services of an environmental expert to both monitor the environmental review process and to provide us with consulting services [which] would help us to stay on top of the situation.”
As Town Manager Kerry Lafleur noted in an August 2 memo to the Board recommending that Concord retain McGregor’s services, the Hanscom proposal would affect 47 acres of land, add 194 average daily vehicle trips and generate more than 12,000 gallons per day of wastewater.
Notably for Concord, Lafleur wrote, sites including Minute Man National Historical Park and Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge “are on a direct path with the east-west runway, as well as many cultural resources and open spaces that bring visitors to this region.”
Lafleur recommended the town hire McGregor, Legere & Stevens for a fixed fee of $7,500 for “Phase 1A Services” — a starting point that includes a records analysis and strategy session. She noted that while Anderson Kreiger would usually handle the matter as Concord town counsel, the firm also provides legal advice to Massport and so has a conflict.
McGregor, Legere & Stevens founder Gregor McGregor, a Concord resident, proposed starting with broad-based public records requests: “I would say [the] key to this town being effective, and this board especially, is to have information,” he said. “Otherwise you’re just reacting. Otherwise, you’re just the tail on the dog.”
McGregor also said Concord could check to see if other towns concerned about the Hanscom expansion are making similar records requests and possibly team up with them to pool costs.
Bottom line, “This is about trying to get information that Hanscom may or may not want to share with you,” he said.
A Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Hanscom project, including a study of carbon emissions, is due out this fall.