Concord’s Select Board is teaming up with its counterparts in Bedford, Lexington and Lincoln to press Gov. Maura Healey to clip the wings of a proposed dramatic expansion of private jet hangar space at Hanscom Airport.
A draft letter from the quartet of towns seeks to draw Healey’s attention to a “pressing environmental concern regarding the proposed North Airfield Expansion” and its “potential contradiction to the state’s climate objectives.”
The Hanscom expansion proposed by Runway Realty Ventures and North Airfield Ventures would add 27 hangars.
The Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, which operates the airport, says the expansion will address an increase in private jet traffic that’s led to a waitlist for hangars. But the plan has sparked an outcry from residents and environmentalists who warn it will exacerbate pollution and noise for the benefit of affluent plane owners.
Rather than focus on concerns about noise or traffic — either in the air or on the ground — officials of the four towns bordering Hanscom are using the letter to persuade Healey the plan goes against her own climate policies and those of Massport.
“Our towns have been diligently working hand-in-hand with the State government to achieve our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets by 2030, and we have made significant progress,” the officials write in the draft. “The proposed North Airfield expansion would undermine these efforts, exacerbating greenhouse gas emissions and directly contradicting the climate goals pursued by our towns, the Commonwealth, and the nation.”
Concord and its neighbors say the governor should “give serious consideration to the environmental justice implications of this project and, based on such considerations, exercise the full extent of your powers to halt Massport’s expansion plans for private jet capacity at Hanscom Field.”
The draft also urges Healey to ensure there’s a “a comprehensive and accurate” environmental impact review of the project — and if more hangars are built, “to ensure that there is no increase in the number of flights, the size of the jets, or the cumulative carbon footprint.”
Select Board member Terri Ackerman said at Monday’s meeting that Concord, Lexington and Lincoln were fine with a previous, longer draft of the letter, but Bedford wanted to cut that down by half.
“We have two choices,” she said. “One, go along with this letter and we’ll be all set — every town will approve it, or has approved it — or we could keep trying to go ‘round and ‘round and get back some of the stuff that was eliminated… but I’m not sure that will happen.”
With expansion proponents moving ahead with the review process, Ackerman said, “We’re frankly running out of time.”
The board ultimately voted to go with the shorter draft. “This doesn’t have to be the last letter we’re ever going to write,” said Board Chair Henry Dane.
As part of a multipronged strategy to oppose the expansion, the Select Board previously voted to hire environmental law firm McGregor Legere & Stevens to make extensive records requests about the Hanscom plan under the Freedom of Information Act.
Relatedly, the board also noted Sept. 29 is the deadline for residents to weigh in with the Federal Aviation Administration as it reviews its civilian aviation noise policy. Dane asked Ackerman to take on drafting a letter to the FAA on the board’s behalf. (Spoiler alert on the content of that forthcoming letter: “We’re against noise,” Dane said.)
To submit a comment, go to https://www.regulations.gov/commenton/FAA-2023-0855-0001 and reference Docket Number FAA–2023–0855.
Several people who live near Hanscom joined Monday night’s meeting virtually to report hearing a terrifyingly loud jet noise over the weekend, with one saying it was “seismic” in scope, rattling windows and knocking objects off the wall.