Like every other business and organization on the island, Nantucket Memorial Airport is facing the impacts of the housing crisis on its staff. That's why the airport is forging ahead with a plan to build two staff housing dormitories on land it owns off Nobadeer Farm Road.
On Tuesday, the Nantucket Airport Commission held a public comment session during its monthly meeting regarding the staff housing project. The commission slotted the session on its agenda to give future neighbor’s living on Park Circle an opportunity to ask questions and express concerns about the two dormitory buildings that are proposed for a sliver of the 105-acre lot of land owned by the airport after receiving several letters from neighbors.
“This location is the one that has been approved to construct this property,” commission chair Arthur Gasbarro said. “This (crew quarters project) is going on this property. It is just a matter of how we go about it. I hope everyone understands that the airport desperately needs housing, and we have an operation to run.”
Airport manager Noah Karberg said he has received six or seven letters from neighbors expressing concern with the project, which would be adjacent to Park Circle. One letter came from the President of the Nobadeer Farm Meeting House Association, Geoffrey Keeler, on Feb. 24. Keeler requested that this project be discussed at the March 14 meeting. A master plan, which has not entirely been approved, would see the airport developing the dormitories along with 11 additional buildings in the future.
The context of the letters makes it clear that neighbors are not against the development of the crew quarters, but logistical concerns do exist. How the process is undertaken, where specifically the development is constructed, and things these neighbors do not want to see removed from the area as a result of this crew quarters being built are some of those concerns.
Keeler expressed in his letter that the neighbors worry about increased traffic congestion to an already busy area of the island off Nobadeer Farm Road. There are concerns about the size and scope of the project and its overall development, removal of trees closest to Park Circle, and the affects this development could have on the existing bike path on Nobadeer Farm Road leading to the Delta Fields.
Three neighbors attended the virtual meeting: Michael Freedman, who is also the NFMHA treasurer, Katy Perales, and Janine McMullen.
Freedman and Perales asked the commission where they are at with the project. Freedman echoed comments made in Keeler’s letter and asked for the project to be pushed farther north away from Park Circle to help reduce the amount of traffic and congestion that will be introduced to the area.
Perales expressed both in the meeting and in a March 6th letter that she and her husband Carlos are urging the Airport Commission to consider amending the location of the dormitory, keeping the trees as a visual and sound buffer between Park Circle and the dormitory, and to keep the bike paths in place.
“As year-round residents with two small children we are concerned with the use of the building as a seasonal dormitory and how close it will be to our home,” the couple said in a March 6th letter. “We think these changes will help minimize the impact to the existing neighborhood.”
McMullen asked the commission whether there has been contact made with the Nantucket New School and Strong Wings Adventure School, which are located at 15 Nobadeer Farm Road, for suggestions on how this project should be approached and to hear their concerns. Gasbarro said that he was not aware of any conversations, adding that he doesn’t believe they have reached that point in the project.
Senior Project Manager Philip Cox responded to McMullen saying that they were in the “very early stages” of this project.
“This is a long-term project and the airport wants to be good neighbors,” Gasbarro said. “We welcome your input.”
“This is not finalized and nothing is set in stone,” he added. “This is a planning process.”
Cassie and Natalie Thompson, who live on Park Circle with two children, submitted a letter detailing their love for the access to the bike paths and surrounding fields. They use the bike paths every day for family walks in the evening and walk their dog along the paths at least twice per day.
The Thompsons said they understand the need for housing and support the building of housing for airport employees. But they also wanted to make it clear that they want the area to remain safe and accessible to the existing community that surrounds them.
“It is a priority to me that our family, especially my children, have a safe place to bike/walk/run near our home,” the Thompsons said. “Moving/altering the existing bike paths would directly impact my family and how we live.”
All public comments were taken under advisement by the commission. The neighbors asked when a finalized location for the dormitory would be made available to them so they can know whether or not to oppose a related warrant article at the Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, May 6th. Gasbarro said they will be speaking with their consultants to come up with a revised plan to share with the neighbors at the commission’s April meeting.