A dormant hangar at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport is getting a new lease on life — literally — after airport commissioners voted at their monthly meeting Thursday to issue a request for proposals (RFP) to rent the aging property.
The almost 20,00 square-foot Dutchess hangar complex, tucked below the airport’s snow removal equipment building, has been under airport ownership for a decade, the outcome of a prior legal battle between the hangar’s builder and the former airport manager.
The airport currently uses the building as an ad hoc equipment storage facility.
On Thursday, airport director Geoffrey Freeman requested approval from the commission to declare the hangar and its accompanying parking lot as surplus property and initiate an RFP process. According to the terms of the lease, any renters must use the property for aeronautics-related purposed and must use green energy where possible.
The former hangar has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years, Mr. Freeman said, noting that much of the equipment stored inside the structure is similarly non-serviceable.
“I look at it as your garage, where you tend where things go to go to die,” Mr. Freeman told the commission. “It’s obviously an eyesore now and is slowly becoming a safety hazard.” Any more functional pieces of equipment inside the hangar, like a handful of vehicles, could be sold to generate surplus revenue, he said.
The property on which the hangar sits was originally earmarked as extended apron space for future airport projects. Noting the dire condition of the hangar and the price of refitting it for airport use, Mr. Freeman strongly exhorted the commission to lease the land for the time being.
“This is the most fiscally responsible thing to do for revenue generation, where we’re releasing that piece of property for aviation needs. Anything else would cost us,” Mr. Freeman said.
Mr. Freeman said the property has already attracted a few interested leasers, including renters who plan to renovate the hangar or tear it down and reconstruct a new building on the property.
With little discussion, the commission voted unanimously in favor of releasing the property and the RFP.
In other business Thursday, Geoffrey Wheeler of the land use subcommittee announced that an adapted formula for lease renewal increases at the business park got the green light this week from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The policy, which has been under review by the FAA for months, proposes that new leases and renewals will be charged according to fair market value or a 10 per cent increase — whichever is lower. The policy also calls for an appraisal of the park every three years.
In a call with airport representatives and the FAA this week, federal officials approved the formula, pending the submission of final details of the costs.
“It’s all good news that they finally have approved something,” said Mr. Wheeler.
Some commissioners raised concerns about not having a formal written version of the policy, urging the airport to put the policy in writing in a letter to the federal agency.
Heeding the suggestion, commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum said the airport would draft an email or letter to the FAA reiterating the policy and the details of the phone conversation. The policy will be put to a final vote at the commission next month, he said.
Also Thursday, commissioners reviewed recent updates on air traffic, which have continued to decrease in the new year.
According to Mr. Freeman, air traffic operations in January of 2021 were 13 per cent lower than in the 2020 calendar year. Passenger boardings have also dropped significantly from 604 last year to 249 in January, a 59 per cent decrease, he said.
“Passenger bookings have really dropped off, unfortunately, but hopefully, spring will start bringing things back up,” Mr. Freeman said. “Commercial carriers are looking to the summer already . . . so that is promising for our revenue.”
Commissioners also voted unanimously to authorize engineering firm McFarland Johnson to do any necessary engineering and procurement on cleaning and rubber removal project at the airfield. Commissioners stipulated that the order not exceed the estimated $15,800.