Following a site visit and public meeting on October 21, the DRB released their findings, as well as their conditions on the airport’s operations. The report details the airport as a non-conforming use in a residential district, due to the operations of the airport that began before the enactment of the town’s zoning. But even with an expansion to 4,450 feet, the board concluded that use of the airport is not expected to increase dramatically.
“Although the runway will be longer and jets will now be able to land,” the report says, “the number of planes using the airport will likely be similar to historical usage. There may be some increase in traffic compared with recent years, but that increase would be minimal.”
Conditions include restrictions on the airport’s hours of operation, 7 am to 10 pm, and the number of planes allowed to land and take off. According to the report, the yearly average number of landings per day shall not exceed 10, and the airport will be required to keep a daily record of the number of landings, which will be reported to the town’s zoning administrator. Landings and takeoffs for emergency situations will be allowed 24 hours a day.
The Hermitage will be required to pay for any emergency training pertaining to aviation emergencies needed by both the Wilmington Fire Department and Deerfield Valley Rescue, as well as any specialized equipment those entities may need.
“We think the airport is vital to the area, both local and regional,” said Bob Rubin, of the Hermitage. “If you look at other towns around the state, the ones with working airports are the ones that have grown, and this is important to our club members as well. It’s one more amenity the Deerfield Valley can offer.”
When construction of the 2,450-foot-long and 75-foot-wide runway expansion will begin is unclear. Rubin said the Hermitage would like to see it begin in the spring, however the permit process will continue at the state level as approval is sought from the Agency of Natural Resources. The board also put restrictions on when construction may take place, singling out weekdays between 7 am and 5 pm.
The airport will remain a Federal Aviation Administration-rated B-1 airport, which controls the size of the planes allowed to take off and land. B-1 airports allow planes with a wingspan less then 49 feet and a maximum height of 20 feet. Planes will also be required to operate at 55 decibels or below, due to the proximity of 19 houses within that decibel range.
One abutter, who preferred to remain anonymous but stated he has aviation interests, said that he was happy that the review board made a sensible and responsible decision. “I see it as an economic benefit and a safety benefit for the valley,” said the abutter.
“We’re very happy about the DRB decision,” said Rubin. “We’re happy with the conditions and will abide by them.”
The appeal period for the decision expires on Thursday, December 5.