Town Monitoring Massport’s RFP for Hanscom Field Development

The Massachusetts Port Authority’s new request for proposals could lead to the construction of a fixed base operator (FBO) close to Hartwell Road caught town officials and residents by surprise.

The request calls for “aviation compatible development” on up to 29 acres. The site abuts Hartwell Road across from the Edge Sports Center’s playing fields and continues behind Werfen, which is the former Instrumentation Laboratory.

The request for proposals 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.”

No documents or public presentations have hinted at this level of development on the so-called North Airfield, which became available to Massport several years ago after the departure of mobile homes housing military families.

Indeed, 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).

According to a summary in that document, the ESPR “includes important data on airport facility planning and environmental impacts that are of interest to the surrounding communities and organizations, and provides a basis for ongoing discussions between Massport and its neighbors.”

Smaller T-hangars are planned for about seven acres west of the site. But Massport never publicly acknowledged that it was abandoning the larger hangar project.

Asked to cite studies or other data that would justify the addition of a fourth FBO to the Hanscom inventory, Massport Media Relations Director Jennifer Mehigan replied only that the port authority can’t be certain that contractors will even bid on the project.

“We just have to see how the market responds to the RFP,” Mehigan said. “There will be a thorough community process if a bid is selected.” Deadline for submitting proposals is Nov. 18.

State Rep. Kenneth Gordon of Bedford observed that the town and Massport “can only coexist if we respect each other. To operate without full disclosure is not respectful.”

The new RFP represents “an expansion of the infrastructure,” Gordon said and would result not only in more aircraft and related noise closer to residential neighborhoods but also aircraft refueling.

“I haven’t gotten any calls but I expect I will,” Gordon said. “We continue to be involved in communicating with Massport.”

Select Board members were more reticent. “Obviously we are monitoring the situation,” said Chair Margot Fleischman. “We’re aware that Massport is seeking to develop the North Airfield for additional aviation-related use, and we’ll continue to be in regular communication with Massport as the process unfolds.”

Select Board member Emily Mitchell, the town’s representative to the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission, declined to comment, except to note that the commission’s next meeting will be Sept. 21.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763


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