To the Editor:
I have sent the following letter to the Great Barrington Selectboard:
I am writing to you in regard to the special permit request from Berkshire Aviation Enterprises (BAE) for an aviation field in an R-4 residential district at 70 Egremont Plain Road, here in Great Barrington. My wife and I live on Bridlepath Lane, just about a mile up Seekonk Crossroads from the airport runway. I understand that, under separate application to the Planning Board, BAE is requesting permission to construct three new hanger buildings on approximately 2 acres of the property. While this warrants its own critical consideration, I mention it here only insofar as it demonstrates the current intention of BAE to expand its current operations. In this case the expansion plans are public and open to debate, but in light of the possibility of future expansions, about which the applicants have been less than forthcoming, it is imperative that the board carefully scrutinize the current application in order to safeguard the residential character of the neighborhood, in terms of traffic (both on land and in the air), open space, safety, lighting, and noise, as well as the more intangible cumulative effect of these that translates into a community’s reasonable expectation of routine daily enjoyment and familial peace of mind.
In its application, BAE’s proposes, “to quell concerns about the legal status of [the property’s use as an airport,” as the reason for requesting this special permit. The purpose of this letter is to strongly urge you to take steps, whatever the merits of that request, to maintain and limit the scope of BNE’s operations to those currently in effect or under review, particularly in light of the possibility of any future development, such as that reported and documented in the The Berkshire Edge article by Heather Bellow, 2/16/17, and in large part confirmed by the applicant in the same article, which describes the expanded uses for the airfield under active consideration, including:
- Adding a charter service;
- Opening a restaurant “to make [the airport] a destination spot… and draw people in”;
- Increasing the number of large scale airshow-like public events
- And the opening of a Light Sport Aircraft commercial dealership
Clearly these, as well as more general and less predictable concerns such as the nature of future aircraft, the possibility of increased runway length, and unanticipated environmental impacts require, if not outright prohibition, then the most stringent of restrictions.
I believe the current operational status of the airport and its assets to the town at large, such as the provision of life-support services, and limited commercial contribution to the local economy, should not be called into question or threatened. However, it is important to note that any benefits deriving from further expansion of the airport facilities, which the granting of this permit may facilitate, will accrue exclusively to the owners of BAE, along with a relatively few aviation hobbyists and enthusiasts. The burdens will be borne by the diverse surrounding community within whose confines the airport operates, a community whose character it has largely respected since its inception.
I urge you, in your capacity as the town’s regulatory body entrusted with insuring the integrity and prosperity of our residentially zoned community, not to approve BAE’s special permit application at this time in its presently unrestricted form. I would hope that future reasonable regulatory steps could be determined and taken that would allow for both the desired adjustment to the airport’s legal status, as well as the preservation of the continued pastoral nature, value and vitality of the residential neighborhood with which it must responsibly coexist.