Friday November 16, 2012

WEST DOVER -- A local entrepreneur has the option to renovate and expand the defunct Mount Snow Airport.

Jim Barnes, owner of the Hermitage Club and Inn, has the option to buy the land the airport currently sits on. His idea is to expand the airport and make it accessible to private jets.

But some local residents aren’t too keen on the project.

"Some were opposed to the airport," Dover Town Clerk Andy McLean told the Reformer last week. Noise and traffic seem to be some of the concerns that citizens of Dover have about the airport.

The airport would be located in the same space as the old airport location, next to the Mount Snow Golf Course. But it would need some work.

Barnes would have to re-surface the area and do some other construction work to the building and hangars, including renovations to the lighting system.

The expansion could bring more money into the town of Dover. Economic development has been a factor in the talks of the expansion.

On Nov. 5, an ad hoc committee was approved by the Selectboard to help understand the impact of the possible Mount Snow Airport expansion. There will be at least two neutral members and two pro-airport members.

Selectboard Chairperson Nona Monis and Ken Black were mentioned as neutral members. Jim Barnes and Kelly Pawlakas will be pro-airport members. Two people against the airport expansion will be abutting property owners. Don Albano will be another member who is still undecided.

The committee will act as an advisory board. It will review data and come up with information that will discuss long-term and short-term impacts the airport may have on the area.

"We will look at decibel levels, impact on the economy, pollution and lighting," said Monis. "Then we will present the data to the Selectboard."

No voting will take place at the committee’s meetings. It will only gather data for when the Act 250 comes in. The supplied data is meant to help Selectboard members decide if they want to support the airport or not.

Act 250 is a Vermont environmental law that regulates development.

"The committee will gather the facts," said Selectboard Chairman Randall Terk at the Selectboard meeting on Nov. 5.

People involved in the committee will consider the character of Dover and determine what other information the Selectboard needs to know before making its decision whether or not to support the expansion.

Studies of other airports in Vermont, like the ones in Bennington and Burlington, may be referred to as well.

Another item of interest will be which route will be used to get to the airport if it is permitted. In the past, people traveling to the airport used Country Club Road, but members of the Selectboard discussed the possibility of using another route from Handle Road that would be more practical for traffic to the potential site.

Barnes has been active at Selectboard meetings in Dover and Wilmington, discussing the possibility of obtaining low or no-interest loans to help get the airport off the ground.

"We should be aware of what’s going on," Town Manager Scott Murphy told the Reformer last week of Wilmington’s part in the airport’s future. "We may be asked to help."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com.