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Residents continue to contest Jet Aviation environmental ruling

The Jet Aviation expansion proposed for Hanscom Field was approved by the state earlier this month, but a group of residents immediately asked for a hearing in a further attempt to force the project to comply with local environmental regulations.  Therefore, the status of the project remains uncertain.

The Lincoln Conservation Commission approved the project under the state wetlands laws by a 5-2 vote, with conditions, in May. However, the commission was not able to review under the local wetlands bylaw because proponent failed to apply under the bylaw, which the commission members and residents felt was required. 

Jet Aviation, a commercial firm that leases land at Hanscom owned by Massport, applied to the Lincoln Conservation Commission under the state Wetlands Protection Act for permission to encroach on a wetlands buffer zone for its project. The company declined to apply under the local Lincoln wetlands bylaw, saying that Massport informed them that Massport is exempt from non-zoning local regulations that might interfere with their "essential government functions" and that this exemption extends to anyone who leases land from Massport.

In a June appeal to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), a group of 12 residents filed an appeal that was underwritten by Save Our Heritage and ShhAir (Safeguarding the Historic Hanscom Area’s Irreplaceable Resources), local nonprofit citizens’ groups concerned with the protection and preservation of natural and historic resources in the Hanscom-area communities.

On October 1, the DEP issued a superseding order of conditions that affirmed the Conservation Commission approval, saying that the commission acted correctly in making its ruling in light of the state Wetlands Protection Act rather than local wetlands bylaws.  “Essentially the DEP is taking it out of our hands," said Conservation Planner Angela Kearney, "but it kept our conditions, which is a good thing,” .

The approval’s conditions set requirements for making sure the construction plan is followed and impacts to the environment are minimized, as well as some post-construction conditions of operation and maintenance to protect the nearby wetlands, such as guidelines on snow removal.

Despite the ruling of the DEP, the original appellants challenged the DEP’s superseding order of conditions by filing a claim for an adjudicatory hearing with the DEP on October 16.

“The petitioners are in settlement talks with the applicant, but no agreement has been reached before the deadline for filing of an appeal, so petitioners are filing to preserve their rights,” says the request filed by McGregor and Associates, the law firm retained by the appellants.

The DEP has scheduled a pre-hearing conference for December 10. The purpose of that conference is to determine the appeal’s potential amenability to settlement through alternative dispute resolution or other means, to identify the issues to be adjudicated, and to establish a schedule for resolution of the appeal, according to the DEP’s October 23 conference scheduling order.

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