Before granting a permit for Hermitage to extend the Deerfield Valley Airport runway to 4,400 feet, the DRB is requesting original development plans from the 1960s, as well as state and local permits pertaining to the development of the airport from the 1990s. The board wants these documents to back up language in Hermitage’s application that mentions the existence of the airport for over 45 years. “What I’d like to see is documents that show that,” said DRB chair Nicki Steel. “We have nothing in terms of a piece of paper showing the original time for when it was started.”
The permits were part of a list of information that the DRB needs from Hermitage and the town. Other items the board would like to collect include clarification of airport hours of operation, information about lighting, and information on whether abutters who live in Dover can be included as interested parties in the proceedings.
The board will also take time to evaluate how the airport plans fit into the town’s zoning ordinance, after Hermitage representative Bob Fisher explained that the Hermitage application lists their plans as conditional use, when in reality they are looking at a pre-existing, nonconforming use. Fisher says this is because the area where the proposed runway extension will go is a residential district with allowed commercial use, and since the airport plans were developed in the 1960s with expansion to 4,400 feet in the 1990s, the Hermitage plans actually fit the definition of a pre-existing, nonconforming use. The Hermitage changed its request to be an extension of a nonconforming use.
Bob Harrington, an engineer working with the Hermitage, explained that the original runway was 2,650 feet with 850 feet in Wilmington. Harrington also said that the extension to 4,400 feet had been approved with an Act 250 permit in the late 1980s, at which time he began construction, clearing 1,200 feet to the south and putting in the necessary fill. “Did that make it part of the runway?” asked Steel. “No, it was never paved, just filled in,” said Harrington. “Because of the economic situations of the time it was abandoned.”
“If you look at the map from at least 1970 this was the proposed footprint of the airport,” said Fisher, “that’s why no lots were made on that orange line (the orange line on Hermitage’s map shows the extension area) because this airport was slated.”
Harrington said that the need for the extension, as well as widening the clear space along the sides of the runway, were required by the FAA in order to allow B1 planes and jets to land at the airport. “ It (airport) had many major defects by FAA standards and that’s the reason why we’re doing this project.”
Ken Kaliski, senior director of Resource System Group in White River Junction, presented the board with a noise level study his group performed. The board had not been given time to read it, so Steel asked Kalinski to summarize some of the main points of the study. Kalinski said that the FAA uses a 65-decibel standard for noise at airports the size of this one, but he was recommending a 55-decibel limit because it was in a residential zone.