Members of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission hope to learn more about the Massachusetts Port Authority’s development plans for the so-called North Airfield at its virtual meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. The link can be found through the Town of Lincoln website. http://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_09212021-4139
Massport late last month issued a request for proposals for the development of what would amount to a fixed-base operator (FBO) on part or all of 29 acres accessible from Hartwell Road. Much of the site was used for many years for mobile homes housing Air Force personnel.
The deadline for submitting proposals is Nov.18. The request doesn’t specify an FBO, but delineates permitted uses consistent with such a facility: “the selling of fuel to aeronautic public, storage, servicing, maintenance of aviation aircraft, general office use for aviation-related communications, operations, support, training, and administrative functions, and tenant employee areas.” Someone once likened an FBO to a “truck stop” for private jets and charters.
No documents or public presentations have hinted at this level of development. In February 2018 Massport was looking for someone to build 165,000 square feet of hangar space, as acknowledged in the most recent Hanscom Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR).
Select Board members Margot Fleischman, Bopha Malone, and Emily Mitchell joined a Massport site visit Friday. Also attending were Margaret Coppe of Lexington, who serves with Mitchell on the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission, as well as developers and representatives of existing Hanscom FBOs.
Ann Buckley, Massport’s manager of aviation business and leasing, hosted the visit. She supplied maps of the site and participants walked around, but Buckley said she couldn’t answer any questions about the project.
The area is contiguous to The Edge Sports Center playing fields on Hartwell Road and runs alongside and behind Werfen (the former Instrumentation Laboratory). The plan shows a potential roadway through the site, connecting to T-hangars that will be built on a separate parcel to the west.
At last week’s Select Board meeting, several members expressed relief that there are no plans for a major delivery operation like Amazon or FedEx. Town Manager Sarah Stanton told the board that “existing zoning and bylaws can protect the town from a distribution center.”
But they were still concerned about the impact on Hartwell Road traffic. “I don’t have the solution to this, but the sooner we put something in place the safer it will be. We need to anticipate all possible uses and how that would lead to traffic,” said Board member William Moonan.
Moonan continued, “We can anticipate that one of the uses will increase truck traffic,” and suggested finding a way to limit trucks on the residential end of Hartwell Road. Stanton was skeptical of the legality of that approach, stating, “If we do take action we want it to be something that sticks.” Mitchell asserted, “It is incumbent on us to keep it at the forefront.”
“Maybe town counsel would be a source of advice. It’s critical for the town to pay attention to this issue as early as we can,” Moonan stated. Stanton said she has connected with counsel, but the subject was “the control we have for non-aviation uses.”
The port authority is “still looking to develop that space for whatever aviation purposes bring in the most revenue for Massport,” said Mitchell. She noted that the advisory commission has been aware of development plans, without “a lot of parameters.”
She said that “the one part that leapt out at me in the proposed plan is there is an expectation or assumption of egress onto Hartwell Road.” Mitchell acknowledged that because there is existing access, “We can’t just say, ‘You can’t have a road.’”
Stanton felt that the situation is under control. “I have to give credit to Massport. They have been very communicative,” she told the board. Stanton said Sharon Williams, airport manager, “always was clear that the project would be used for aviation. We weren’t caught by surprise by the RFP; we knew it was coming at the end of August.”
“We are in communication with Massport,” she said. “I think it is important to know that the town is being proactive in communication and continues to share concerns with Massport. Our ongoing concerns relate to traffic and [that] we keep the lines of communication open.” She said she has “proactively reached out to the planning director to provide some guidance for traffic mitigation.”
There was no mention of the prospect of increased air traffic.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763