Thursday, June 12, 2014

Appeal filed on Hanscom Field (KBED) decision

A group of Lincoln citizens has filed an appeal with the state asking it to overturn the town’s approval of a request by Jet Aviation to expand its facilities at Hanscom Field.

On May 27, the appeal was filed on behalf of Lincoln residents with MassDEP (Department of Environmental Protection) by McGregor & Associates, P.C., asking the DEP to overturn the Lincoln Conservation Commission’s decision that would allow Jet Aviation to build over an acre of new infrastructure within Lincoln wetlands buffer zones. The challenge was made under the state Wetlands Protection Act.

The proposed development is part of a larger plan by Jet Aviation to add a total of 140,000 square feet of new infrastructure to its facility at Hanscom Field for the purpose of attracting and servicing Gulfstream 650s, large private jets used for international travel.

Michael Arnone, director of marking and online services for Jet Aviation, declined comment on the appeal.

"We worked closely with the Lincoln Conservation Commission to gain their approval on our project by tailoring it in a way that addressed their important environmental considerations," Arnone said. "At this time, we cannot comment further as the commission's approval has been appealed and the case remains pending."

The project holds both legal and environmental implications for all four of the Hanscom-area towns -- Bedford, Concord, Lexington and Lincoln -- according to the appellants. At issue is whether Jet Aviation, a for-profit private enterprise, and its landlord Massport, a state agency, are subject to local regulations in non-zoning matters as any other business or residential landowner would be.

Jet Aviation leases land from Massport, the owner and operator of Hanscom Field civil airport. Jet Aviation has declined to apply under the local Lincoln wetlands bylaw on the basis that because Massport, as a state agency, has a provision in its enabling act that exempts its "essential government functions" from local regulations; and that this exemption extends to anyone who leases land from Massport, no matter what business they engage in. After five controversial public hearings, the Lincoln Conservation Commission ultimately voted to approve the project under the state Wetlands Act with conditions.

The appeal challenges the Jet Aviation and Massport claims to blanket exemption from local regulation, arguing that they are subject to local bylaws in non-zoning matters. This assertion is shared by the Lincoln town counsels, the Lincoln Conservation Commission and by state legislators representing the Hanscom-area communities.

The appeal follows a letter from state legislators representing the Hanscom-area towns which was submitted by State Rep. Jay Kaufman, D-Lexington, on May 19 to MassDEP Commissioner David Cash stating that Jet Aviation had failed to fully comply with necessary local and state regulations. It asked that the matter be remanded back to the Lincoln Conservation Commission.

Local conservation commissions issue permits under both the state and local wetlands laws, with local bylaws often stricter than the state Wetlands Act, as in the case of Lincoln. On the basis of its presumed exemption, Jet Aviation filed only under the state law. When asked by the Lincoln Conservation Commission multiple times during the public hearings if it would apply under the Lincoln bylaw, Jet Aviation refused to do so.


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