GREAT BARRINGTON — After a nearly three-year struggle, the Select Board this week unanimously denied a special permit that would have allowed the construction of six hangars at Walter J. Koladza Airport. Kate Burke, one member of the five-person board, recused herself because she lives near the airfield.
At its previous hearing, the board was clear that it would deny the permit sought by Berkshire Aviation Enterprises, citing the town’s bylaws, and the effect the new hangars would have on the “character” of the farm/residential area that has has coexisted with the airport over the roughly 90 years of its operation.
The 91-acre site was used as an airfield before zoning laws were enacted, and exists out of conformity. A special permit would have changed that, also allowing smaller modifications to the property without the expense of getting a special permit each time.
The board decided that, while the hangars — for paid storage of 33 aircraft now tied to the airfield — would not increase the current and significant benefits to the community, they might create unforeseen problems in future.
Board Chairman Stephen Bannon said the permit application was “very complicated,” and took aim at those who criticized the board for “being against the airport.”
“They really need to delve into it further,” he said. “There’s a lot of nuance in this.”
Berkshire Aviation had dropped its first permit attempt in 2018, after a group of neighbors objected to the project for reasons that included perceived threats to the local environment and safety.
After the owners submitted a new application in the spring, noise became the most objectionable issue, and the owners made flight path changes for pilots in response. Neighbors hired a Boston attorney. And fears of a busier airport due to new hangars appears to have swayed the board, though its owners said the hangars are intended for the existing airplanes.
The airport’s engineers said the hangars would increase safety by keeping planes out of the elements, and protect the ground from runoff or potential leaks from tied-down planes. The Planning Board vetted the project in August, and gave it a positive recommendation to the Select Board, in part for this reason.