Airport commission looks at Business Park expansion

Several hurdles make for slow progress.

The Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission is looking at areas where it can expand its business park. — File photo by Tyler Johnson

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission is in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration to consider additional places to develop surrounding the Island’s airfield.

At a meeting Thursday, airport commissioners talked about the possibility of expanding the airport’s Business Park, with Commissioner Clarence Barnes seeking more urgency, according to a videotape of the meeting aired on MVTV.

“It just keeps getting postponed, and postponed, and postponed,” Mr. Barnes said. “We’ve got to get something more positive to bring to the people.”

Airport manager Ann Richart, who is now going by her maiden name, told The Times in a follow-up interview there are several regulatory hurdles to overcome before the airport can begin sending out requests for proposals.

“The FAA has total control over all of it,” she said. “For us to do a business park, the FAA has to determine that land is basically surplus and not needed for aeronautical use, or that the use is compatible with airport use.”

Environmental impact and a dwindling capacity for the airport’s wastewater treatment facility are other factors, Ms. Richart said.

Ideas have been floated, like a hotel, retail, and warehouses, but nothing is set in stone and there will be a lot of public outreach before anything happens, Ms. Richart said. She has been talking with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission about getting the public’s feedback, as well as Edgartown, which controls the zoning on the property.

Ms. Richart could not say exactly how much land would be part of an additional business park, but said one area would be adjacent to the existing park, while there are also lots that are available near the airport entrance. There is also an idea of moving the taxi runway, which could make room for a solar farm or some other storage facility that would generate revenue for the airport, she said.

One thing the additional land is unlikely to solve is the Island’s housing problem. Housing is considered incompatible with airports, except for firefighters and airport managers, Ms. Richart said. The airport is asking the FAA to consider dormitory-style housing for seasonal airport workers, something Nantucket Airport is also requesting.

“Like every business on the Island, we have difficulty finding affordable housing for our employees,” she said.

So-called “top of the shop” housing is another thing being pursued for companies in the business park. “There’s a pretty slim chance FAA would allow us to do it,” she said.

In other business, the wastewater treatment plant was unable to discharge its effluent for a couple of weeks after chlorine was detected in the water.

Chlorine levels were so high it could be smelled, facilities manager Michael Eldridge told the commissioners.

The plant remained operational, Ms. Richart told The Times.

The commission unanimously approved new leases for JJ’s Motocross and Garden Beautifiers, as well as a lease assignment for H.N. Hinkley to Nickerson. Commissioners also approved a request by Vineyard Decorators to add a one-story addition. Even though a two-story addition has already been approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the new request is smaller, Vineyard Decorators has to start the process over, Ms. Richart said.