Activists Sara Sheffels, Lauren McNair, Jocelyn Tine and Dylan Sessler stand in the rain at an April 20 demonstration. Photo by Lisa Guidetti courtesy of The Lexington Observer

Citing planned protests, Hanscom developers scuttle in-person public hearing appearance

May 29, 2024

By Erin Tiernan —

Pointing to a planned protest, developers won’t show up in person for Thursday’s final public hearing on an environmental report on the proposed Hanscom Airfield expansion.

A North Airfield Ventures spokeswoman said in an email that the group opted out over “safety concerns associated with protesters that have been disruptive in the past and a graduation event happening at Bedford High School the same evening.”

The meeting, originally advertised as a 6:30 p.m. public information session held both in person and online, will now be virtual only.

There are no graduation events listed on the Bedford High School calendar that day.

Prom photos and a sendoff are slated from 3:30 to 5:15 p.m., and a scholarship award ceremony begins at 7 p.m.

Bedford High School officials, North Airfield Ventures, and airport committee members did not immediately respond to Concord Bridge requests for comment.

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the expansion came out in March. It details plans for a 47-acre development with 17 new hangars, adding 395,700 square feet for aircraft parking and storage.

The planned number of new hangars dropped from 26 in the initial 2023 filing with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Office to 17 in the recently released DEIR, but the square footage remains about the same. A public comment period on the report lasts through June 14. 

A Draft Environmental Impact Report diagram of the proposed Hanscom hangar expansion.

The project has drawn the condemnation of local officials and climate activists alike.

They say increased emissions from aircraft that use the new hangar space — primarily private jets — would negate local progress on meeting climate goals. Chris Eliot, who chairs a committee overseeing the airfield, said Gov. Maura Healey needs to take a stand. 

When it comes to Hanscom’s expansion, Healey spokeswoman Karissa Hand declined to clarify the governor’s position, saying only the project is under review by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office.

Twenty protesters affiliated with the group Extinction Rebellion Boston got arrested last month after they bodily blocked private jets at Hanscom. Others blocked the entrances of fixed-base operators Signature Aviation, Jet Aviation, and Atlantic Aviation.

Protesters have waved banners emblazoned with slogans including “no new fossil fuel infrastructure” and “private jets are leaving our kids’ future in the dust” at recent public meetings about the hangar expansion.

Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting takes place via Zoom