OCTOBER 26, 2000
A group of suburban officials fighting increased airline service at Hanscom Field in Bedford suffered a legal setback yesterday when Middlesex Superior Court Judge Peter Agnes denied their motion for summary judgment. Selectmen from Bedford, Lincoln, Concord, and Lexington -- together known as the Hanscom Area Towns (HATS) Committee -- are suing Massport for allowing commercial airline service to resume at Hanscom after an eight-year hiatus.
The motion argued that Massport hadn't follow the proper public review process. Richard Walsh, community liaison for Massport, defended his agency's public outreach efforts. Walsh said Massport held two public hearings on the issue in which more than 700 people showed up, as well as regular twice-a-month meetings, "I hope this is the end of it because we have a community process in place, and I think it works," he said.
HATS opposess increased airline service because of concerns about the effects of increased flights on the Minute Man National Historic Park and nearby Walden Pond. The selectmen vowed to continue their fight -- even if that means focusing on other avenues. "We're terribly disappointed by the judge's ruling," said Peter Enrich, a Lexington selectman who doubles as chairman of HATS. "(But) I think it's premature to anticipate what our next step (is). This is just one stage in the litigation."
HATS filed suit against Logan Airport last year after Massport got Federal Aviation Administration permission to allow planes with more than 30 seats to use Hanscom. Massport sought the new certification so Shuttle America could begin offering additional flights from Hanscom to a handful of destinations throughout the Northeast. A request early in the lawsuit for a restraining order to prevent the service from starting was rejected by Superior Court Judge Herman J. Smith Jr. (See No Injunction Against Commercial Flights at Suburban Massachusetts Airport, Sept. 28, 1999.)
In light of the two decisions, Massport spokesman Jose Juves questioned whether HATS' suit would ever to make it to trial. "Judging from the two judges' decisions thus far, it would not bode well for them in a court of law and it would be a waste of the taxpayers' money (for HATS to proceed)," Juves said.
But Enrich said Agnes's ruling doesn't necessarily reflect badly on HATS' overall lawsuit. "This is not a final ruling on the merits of the case," he said.
Of bigger import, perhaps, is the lingering question as to whether the FAA is going to allow Shuttle America to expand its service by offering flights to LaGuardia Airport in New York City. Last month the airline was set to go ahead with six daily roundtrips when the FAA stepped in at the last minute and said the proposal needed further environmental review.
"We're expecting a decision any day now," said Juves. "We feel confident the LaGuardia flights will be approved because the reality is there really is no additional impact (on the area)."
Source: Boston Herald