Marshfield Airport Looks to Future After Court Win
July 29, 2016
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  • Marshfield Airport officials are looking to the future after a Superior Court judge ruled against a local man’s 2014 lawsuit protesting the reconstruction of the facility’s sole runway.

    A consultant hired by the Marshfield Airport Commission will work on a new five-year plan for the facility, said Ann Pollard, vice president of Shoreline Aviation, the private company that operates the municipal airport.

    The $15 million reconstruction moved the runway about 190 feet southwest, lengthened it by 300 feet, and created paved 300-foot safety buffers on each end.

    Largely complete by the end of July 2014, the project was funded with about $13 million from the Federal Aviation Administration. The town of Marshfield contributed $200,000, and additional money came from the state.

    In October 2014, Marshfield resident John Whippen sued the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, saying the permit the board issued was invalid because a notice to abutters indicated the runway extension would occur in a business zone, when it was actually in a residential zone.

    Plymouth Superior Court Judge Robert Cosgrove determined that the discrepancy was a typographical error and did not invalidate the permit. Whippen also filed his appeal far too late, the judge said in his June 30 decision granting the board’s motion for summary judgment.

    Whippen appealed about three years after the Zoning Board of Appeals issued the permit, but appeals must be filed within 20 or 90 days, depending on the circumstances, the judge said.

    Robert Galvin, a lawyer for the town, said that despite the error in the abutters’ notice, the notice did detail which lots were involved in the construction, and the plans filed with the town showed the correct zoning district. “The notice was very descriptive,” he said.

    A number of Marshfield residents objected to the runway reconstruction, fearing it would bring more fumes and noise, although the airport said it anticipated no appreciable increase in traffic.

    Some neighbors also opposed the use of wood pilings treated with chromated copper arsenate in the soft peat beneath the runway, arguing the treatment could leach out and harm the environment.

    “The whole group felt that the airport didn’t have the proper permitting in place to do what it did,” said Hugh Beagan, an airport neighbor and member of an ad-hoc group called Marshfield Citizens Against Airport Pollution.

    Whippen’s attorney, Sean Beagan, who is Hugh Beagan’s son, declined through an assistant to comment.

    Following the judge’s decision, airport officials are “reevaluating and contemplating what the future might hold,” Pollard said.

    No new major projects are planned at the airport for five to seven years beyond maintenance and repair, she said.

    Asked if the airport has considered adding a restaurant, Pollard said it has, but the property is too small. “We’ve often thought that maybe a food truck would be a fun addition,” she said.

    A full-scale restaurant tends to attract extra traffic, and Marshfield Airport simply does not have the necessary parking — for planes or cars, she said.

    The airport sits on roughly 135 acres, she said. It deeded about 100 unbuildable acres to Mass Audubon as part of the construction.

    Plymouth Municipal Airport, in contrast, has hundreds of acres and a restaurant called “Plane” Jane’s Place. The airport website advertises some 203 acres available for non-aviation development, plus another 120 acres for future hangars

    Once an unpaved airfield in the shadow of a barn, Marshfield Airport was acquired by the town in 1965. Visitors are welcome every day, from 8 a.m. until dusk.

    Adults and children visit regularly to watch planes take off and land, Pollard said. The experience gets young people interested in flight, and about 15 students under legal driving age are learning how to fly with experienced flight instructors, she said.

    Members of the airport staff offer tours to school groups and clubs, and on Friday, Aug. 12, the airport will host Molly Movie Mania, a public movie night sponsored by the Molly Fitzgerald Memorial Fund. The movie is Disney’s “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” Details will be posted on the airport Facebook page.

    Also for visitors, the airport aims to create a display of artifacts uncovered by archeologists on airport property prior to the construction, including cutting tools, thousands of pottery shards, and other items that show humans lived in the area 3,500 years ago, according to David Suffredini, vice chairman of the Airport Commission.

    The display should be ready by the end of the year, Pollard said. The airport also plans to create a website or Web page dedicated to the artifacts and their history.