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Southwick officials seek to limit airplane landings on Congamond Lakes
January 28, 2011
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  • By Manon Mirabelli

    January 26, 2011

    SOUTHWICK – Town officials are seeking a change to bylaw language that would prohibit airplane landings on the Congamond Lakes without a permit from the harbormaster.

    The proposed bylaw change would only allow for the landing and take-off of small aircraft on the lakes with the permission of Police Chief Mark J. Krynicki, acting as the harbormaster. Permission would not be required in the case of emergencies.

    A public hearing to address all proposed changes to safety bylaws governing the lakes will be held Thursday at 6 in the Land Use Hearing Room at Town Hall.

    Lake Management CommitteeChairman Richard T. Grannells said airplane landings on the lakes “have not been an issue in years,” but the change in bylaw language would modernize the law and reflect the influx of current lake usage.

    “Aircraft used to be a problem, but not in the last 15 years,” he said. “The purpose of this bylaw change is in the interest of preventing a catastrophe.”

    Before that 15-year mark, Grannells added, there were three airplane crashes on the lakes – two involving fixed-wing aircraft and one involving a rotary wing aircraft.

    The change in language has been approved by the state Department of Transportation. The state agency, in a Jan. 3 letter, supported a request made by Grannells to review the proposed bylaw change.

    Charles D. Rennick, legal counsel for the transportation agency, said in the letter that the department’s Aeronautics Division “must review and approve any municipal regulation, ordinance or bylaw relative to the use and operation of aircraft equipped with floats for other means of transportation on the commonwealth’s great ponds.”

    Krynicki outlined the “permitting” procedure by explaining that each request for an aircraft’s take-off or landing on Congamond Lakes would be handled on an individual basis after a meeting between himself and the pilot during which restrictions, if any, would be discussed.

    “An example of a restriction might be no landings or take-offs during the weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day due to boating traffic,” he stated.

    In addition, Krynicki said he does not anticipate a large number of requests for permits.

    “The expense of developing and printing an actual permit is not justified,” he said. “A letter for the harbormaster would act as a permit. It would state that permission has been granted and outline the responsibilities of the pilot and any other requirements or restrictions.”

    Grannells said the only reasonable place on Congamond where an airplane can land and take-off would be Middle Pond opposite Babbs Beach where the lakes’ widest point is nearly 2,000 feet. The average width of the lake at other points is 600 to 1,000 feet.

    Following the public hearing, the Board of Selectmen must review all language changes before approving the bylaw article for placement on the warrant for Town Meeting where residents will decide whether or not to adopt the measure.

    Date: 2011-01-26