Neighbors take ZBA to court, demand airport board decision overturned

Anne Fredericks, one of the plaintiffs, speaks from the podium against the expansion of Walter J. Koladza Airport in February 2017. Edge file photo

GREAT BARRINGTON — A group of neighbors opposed to the expansion of Great Barrington Airport appealed a recent decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals to the state Land Court.

Nearby residents Marc Fasteau, Anne Fredericks, Holly Hamer and 17 others filed the appeal on Monday. The news was first reported in an email explosion from Eileen Mooney’s NEWSletter.

Tad Heuer Great Barrington
Tad Heuer. Photo courtesy of Foley Hoag LLP

Fasteau confirmed the call in an email but referred questions to his attorney Thaddeus Heuer, who later told The Edge he would respond next week. Click here to read the 280-page complaint which cites case law and includes many historical documents dating back to the airport’s opening more than 90 years ago.

The appeal challenges a unanimous vote last month by the Zoning Appeal Board (ZBA) to uphold a decision by Zoning Enforcement Officer Edwin May to reject a request from airport neighbors to enforce the city ​​zoning regulations against the airport.

The problem is the fact that Walter J. Koladza Airport, as it is officially called, is located in a residential area, but was originally built shortly before Great Barrington first adopted a zoning code in 1931, so the small airport is a pre-existing non-compliant. use, which means that any extension of its use requires a special permit from the city.

The zoning application appears to have been prompted by a recent request by the airport to demolish its small office building and replace it with a new one on the same footprint on airport property abutting Egremont Plain Road.

Koladza Great Barrington Airport
The small Walter J. Koladza Airport office building on Egremont Plain Road. Airport owner Rick Solan wants to demolish the building and build a new one on the same footprint. Image courtesy of Google Maps

The civil suit filed Monday names each ZBA member individually as defendants. The plaintiffs do not seek damages, but want the court to reverse the ZBA’s decision, find that the ZBA exceeded its powers and that the ZBA’s actions were “based on legally untenable grounds.” The complaint also asks the court to refer the case to the ZBA and to order the council to tell the building inspector to “enforce the [zoning] settlement in accordance with the decision of this court.

Heuer presented research on the airport’s history indicating that by the time the city passed zoning in the 1932 city assembly, the airport had one building and an unpaved grass runway. There are now five structures, none of which were built with the necessary special permits, and a half-mile paved trail.

Additionally, Heuer said traffic at the airport has increased significantly since the 1940s and currently Blackhawk helicopters occasionally use the airport for night training missions for members of the National Guard of the United States. ‘army.

“By any measure, this is a pronounced physical expansion,” Heuer said in April.

Airport attorney Dennis Eagan argued that the increase in airport operations was not an illegal expansion and that just because Heuer could not find evidence did not mean some features didn’t exist before they didn’t exist.

Steve McAlister. Photo courtesy of Clark + Green

More recently, airport officials requested a special permit from the selection committee for six new hangars. In a long and heated battle with neighbors in which the airport backed out and resubmitted its plans, the council eventually signaled its rejection of the application, in part due to concerns about whether, as the According to the zoning regulation, the benefits of the project “outweigh the potential adverse effects”. repercussions. »

Voting to reject the neighbors’ enforcement motion in April, ZBA member Steve McAlister, an architect, called the situation “absurd” and “positioned to bankrupt the airport”.

“I think, from my layman’s perspective, that’s harassment,” McAlister continued. “I’m ticked because I think it’s a waste of time for this board.”

Located in Boston, Land Court hears cases involving real estate and land use, and oversees the state’s system for real estate title registration. The filing for that case does not say when the court will consider it, but its online filing says the case has been “assigned to expedited proceedings by standing order of the Land Court.”

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