Hanscom Environmental Impact Report Now Targeted for Winter

October 18, 2023
Almost 500,000 square feet of new hangar space is proposed for an area off Hartwell Road that Massport has labeled the Borth Airfield. Image JMcCT

The response to a mandatory request for details by developers of a proposed massive complex of Hanscom Field hangars won’t be issued for a few months.

The Massachusetts Port Authority advised members of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission on Tuesday that the anticipated draft environmental impact report (EIR) is now scheduled for release in the winter.

When the secretary of the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs issued a requirement for the impact report at the end of February, Ken Schwartz, the developers’ spokesman said it would take at least six months to complete.

On Wednesday, Schwartz, senior vice president for the transportation planning firm VHB, said by email that the revised timetable “is to allow sufficient time to respond to the scope required by MEPA, including engagement with the surrounding communities.”

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“Once the EIR comes in, we are going to want to look at that quite carefully,” Christopher Eliot, commission chair, told members at the virtual meeting. “Anyone here with environmental or legal experience, or anyone who wants to help, let me know.”

Almost 500,000 square feet in additional hangar space – including more than 400,000 in new construction – are targeted for an area off Hartwell Road that Massport has labeled the Borth Airfield.

Two limited liability corporations — formed last year in response to Massport’s request for proposals – were the successful bidders. In his introductory letter, Michael Argiros, one of the principals, described the 49-acre project as “a master development of corporate hangars which will support current aviation activity and accommodate future demand.” 

Plans call for construction of new hangars on Massport land as well as renovation of the so-called contiguous Navy hangar. A few of the 27 hangar structures are planned for the privately owned Navy hangar site.

The draft environmental impact report is a response to a detailed scope issued under the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act process. The report is supposed to reflect the status of project planning and design and must “assess measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate environmental impacts, and identify measures the proponent will commit to.”

According to the agency, the report should “demonstrate that the proponent will pursue all feasible measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate damage to the environment to the maximum extent feasible.”

Thus, the scope is all-inclusive in its requirements, ranging from noise, air emissions, and land alteration to water quality, wildlife habitat, and ground traffic. 

Eliot asked commission members at Tuesday’s virtual meeting, “Is there anything more we should state at this phase or should we just wait for the EIR?” There were no suggestions, and the chair said he would post a commission meeting as soon as the draft report is released.

A member asked about the statutory comment period in response to the draft. Mike Vatalaro, Massport community relations representative, said “We will make sure the comment period is sufficient so you won’t be rushed.”

Bedford’s commission representative, Select Board member Emily Mitchell, told the group about a letter on behalf of the Hanscom Area Towns Committee sent to Gov. Maura Healey, “so there is some additional expression of concern coming from the towns.” Mitchell said Healey is “the one person in the commonwealth who can have some impact on the project.” The governor is the appointing authority for the Massport Board.

Barbara Katzenberg, Lexington’s representative to the commission, asked about the actual approval process once the environmental impact report is approved. “Who has to do what?” No one had a definitive reply.

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