Plans for an enormous hangar complex at Hanscom Field near Hartwell Road have been reduced from 27 new structures to 17.
According to a representative working with the development team, the change is in response to a “request specified in the secretary’s certificate on the environmental notification form; prospective tenant needs; and public comments.”
However, he added, “While the number of buildings proposed will change from 27 to 17, it’s too early to know whether the total square footage for the project would be reduced by an equal ratio. There are too many variables in the planning at this point in the process.”
That process centers on preparation of a draft environmental impact report, which is not expected for several more weeks.
The original proposal incorporates a little more than 400,000 square feet of new space with renovation of the existing contiguous Navy hangar, adding another 87,000 square feet.
Opponents have focused on the negative climate impact of increased private jet traffic, and they were not swayed by news of the project’s contraction.
State Sen. Mike Barrett of Lexington suggested that the original plans were deliberately oversized, “the oldest political trick in the book. Now we know what Massport and its developer partners really think of us. They think we’re dumb. This demeans the residents of the host communities and mocks Massachusetts’ efforts to combat climate change.”
“Whether Massport and the developers build 27 or 17 hangars is irrelevant, given that UN climate scientists are urging all sectors to make drastic and immediate cuts in their existing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Corinne Doud of Bedford on behalf of the Coalition to Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom or Anywhere.
Neil Rasmussen of Concord, president of Save Our Heritage and driver of the coalition, in response to the hangar expansion, asked, “Is this just a change to fewer larger hangars? Did the square feet go down – if at all – and by how much? Typical jets need 5,000-6,000 square feet per aircraft. Fewer larger hangars provide additional flexibility.”
Jennifer Boles of Bedford, a longtime watchdog of local aviation-related activity, agreed, “Because 17 larger hangars could be able to house just as many or more private jets as 27 smaller hangars.”
Said Christopher Eliot, chair of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission, “I am happy to hear they have dropped half the hangars from the proposal. I’ll be happier when they drop the other half.”
A pivotal state agency wants the developers to show why it can’t accomplish Massport’s goals with a smaller or delayed project.
Nine months ago, the secretary of the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs issued a requirement for the proponents to prepare a draft environmental impact statement that justifies the need for a project of that magnitude.
A detailed “scope” specifies the content of the impact report, including “data and analyses that support the proponent’s assertion that the project will reduce the number of flights at Hanscom.”
One rationale Massport has used to justify increasing overall aircraft storage space is to reduce so-called “ferry flights.” Airport management has said that there is no room for overnight storage, so passengers are often dropped off at Hanscom with the planes then departing for other nearby airports for the night.
According to the scope, the developer “should review a reduced-build alternative that achieves the goals of reducing the number of ferry flights by constructing fewer hangars and thereby minimizing land alteration.”
The project team’s representative said on Monday, “The number of new hangar buildings has been reduced, resulting in a reduction in overall land impacts.”
Also, the scope says developer must consider “operational measures that could be implemented to reduce ferry flights without additional hangars,” such as restrictions on aircraft type.
Proposing the project are North Airfield Ventures and Runway Realty Ventures, limited liability companies formed in response to a request for proposal from Massport in August 2021 that did not specify size. That followed a 2017 request for 165,000 square feet of hangar space that elicited no response. The current contract was awarded in June 2022.