Concord presses Massport for documents on Hanscom expansion 

By Celeste Katz Marston   Celeste@theconcordbridge.org
January 17, 2024

The Massachusetts Port Authority blew deadlines to give Concord records on a controversial proposed hangar expansion at Hanscom Field, a lawyer for the town says, spurring the filing of an appeal to get those documents and find out what’s in them.  

“Massport’s not going to answer our questions because I say so, pretty please, on some perfumed stationery,” attorney Gregor McGregor told The Concord Bridge of the appeal.   

The Select Board voted in August to hire McGregor’s environmental firm, McGregor Legere & Stevens, to use the Freedom of Information Act to access documents related to the Hanscom proposal.  

McGregor’s firm in October requested communications on the project between Massport and the developers; details on land transfers associated with the deal; contracts with companies or consultants associated with the project; and more.  

The law firm received some — but not nearly all — of those documents on December 5.  

On January 8, McGregor’s firm filed an appeal with the Commonwealth, saying Massport failed to abide by the records law and pressing the state to make Massport comply with the request and also bar it from charging for the documents. 

Under the controversial plan, Hanscom would add 27 hangars under an expansion proposed by Runway Realty Ventures and North Airfield Ventures. Massport, which operates the airfield, supports the plan as a means of easing the pressure of growing private jet traffic to and from the region, which has created a waiting list for hangar space. 

But residents of Concord and neighboring towns, along with environmental groups, have slammed the idea and protested the expansion. They warn it could ratchet up air and noise pollution just for the benefit of well-heeled jet users — and stands in diametric opposition to the Commonwealth’s own environmental goals, which include reducing the use of fossil fuels.  

The Select Board has voted for a variety of “actions to limit or prevent any further expansion of private  jet activity at Hanscom,” said Chair Henry Dane. Last month, the board voted to chip in with three other Hanscom-area communities, Bedford, Lexington and Lincoln, for a study of ultrafine particulates.  

Of course it’s impossible to know what interesting information might be in the documents before they’re produced, Dane said.  

“They only gave us what they wanted to give us, and we filed an appeal. I don’t know what the result of that appeal to the Secretary of State’s going to be,” he said, “but it sounds like there’s stuff they don’t want to show us — and either it’s just institutional foot-dragging or they’ve got something to hide.” 

Included in the first document drop from Massport: 

  • A right-of-entry agreement between Massport and North Airfield and Runway Realty Ventures. 
  • The 2021 request for proposals for the approximately 29-acre project. 
  • A future airport layout plan dated January 2022. 
  • A series of charts and tables of airport runway data.  

In response to a Bridge inquiry, Massport Director of Media Relations Jennifer Mehigan said in an email last Friday that her understanding was the records request “was extremely broad and that our staff have been actively working on this. As we gather documents and complete a review they are being sent over.” 

She said more documents could be sent out this week. (That might be after The Bridge goes to press.) 

Environmental law attorney Gregor McGregor’s firm is working to get the town more Hanscom documents through the Freedom of Information Act. Photo by Celeste Katz Marston

McGregor said he hoped Massport would come across with a full response to the FOIA request so Concord and other interested communities could gain insight on “the land use impacts and the traffic impacts and the noise impacts,” among other concerns. 

“I want the town to have full information about the project,” including because “I want the town to be able to participate fully in the MEPA process,” he said, referring to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act, which requires state agencies to study the environmental consequences of their actions. 

Concord and its neighbors need to actively seek out documents related to Hanscom, he said, rather than wait for them to be served up by project proponents.  

“If a large industrial complex [or] mining or sand and gravel operation came to town, naturally all the departments would want to review the project, its criteria, its size, effects, impact, mitigation and the like,” McGregor said, “and not just rely on an environmental impact report eventually published by the consultant for Massport under MEPA.” 

Dane also expressed concerns at Gov. Maura Healey’s recent comments about the Hanscom project in an interview with WGBH radio. Pressed on concerns about the expansion, Healey reiterated some of her climate goals, but said she would reserve comment as the MEPA process unfolded. 

“You still don’t know what the governor really thinks, because she may be just covering her bases with some interests that she doesn’t want to alienate [and] maybe she’s just trying to be diplomatic and not commit,” Dane said. “But it is not encouraging, in light of  her environmental priorities, that this would not be something [she’s] willing to go out in front of.” 

The governor’s press office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.