‘Land swap’ could pave way to encroachment

June 16, 2010

The development of six lots adjacent to Taunton Municipal-King Field in Massachusetts was previously off limits because the land had no access to a public street—but a “land swap” negotiated without consulting the airport commission would open the door to development by granting access to the land from a private airport drive.

The variance granting access to the land would allow incompatible development within and under the traffic pattern of runways 12 and 22 and should be rescinded, AOPA told the zoning board of appeals in a letter June 3. Members of the airport community, including airport users, airport commission members, and airport manager Dan Raposa, turned out at a board meeting June 10 to oppose the variance, but the board granted a continuance and will take up the issue again July 15.

The former city solicitor presented the land swap to the municipal council in December, when the mayor was out of state, the assistant city solicitor wrote in a letter to the board. The council voted to approve the swap based upon the solicitor’s recommendation, and the mayor signed it upon returning—only to find out later that the solicitor had not consulted with the city’s airport commission before finalizing the deal.

The airport community rose in opposition to the deal. Several local business on the field submitted letters to the zoning board, and the hangar association circulated a petition in opposition. AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Joseph Lawlor, also the airport assistant manager, contacted AOPA with information about the deal. In its letter, AOPA expressed concern about the effects of placing residential development so close to an airport. Residents regularly exposed to normal aeronautical activities such as takeoffs and landings may eventually call for restrictions on the airport, said AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins.

“[These restrictions could] negatively impact the utility and efficiency of the airport and may cause the city to be in non-compliance with their federal grant obligations with respect to compatible land use,” he wrote.

AOPA encourages members of the airport community to continue urging the zoning board to rescind the variance. The board will consider the issue again at its next scheduled meeting at 6:45 p.m. July 15 in the Chester R. Martin Municipal Council Chambers.