RI Airport Corp informs council of future plans
The Rhode Island Airport Corporation sent a letter to First Warden Andre Boudreau, made available to the Town Council by Town Manager Maryanne Crawford, which updated RIAC’s plans for the Block Island Airport. According to the letter, RIAC has abandoned plans to lease out for development two areas of Block Island Airport land, designated BID-1 and BID-3. Public outcry has been loud and
consistent against developing these two areas. BID-1 is located across Center Road from the airport, next to the Enchanted Forest, and BID-3 is located along the back fence near the runway. Citizens of Block Island have voiced their objections to the use of BID-1 for
nonaviation uses and have pointed out that the proposed uses are contrary to the Zoning Ordinance for the Residential A zone. Conservation groups quickly pointed out that BID-3 is home to the endangered American burying beetle and an endangered plant, the
northern blazing star.
RIAC’s letter stated that BID-1 and BID-3 were being removed from consideration for development due to the Town Council’s input. Cushman and Wakefield, the realtors for RIAC, have removed the two areas from their online advertisements.
RIAC’s letter also informed the council about its vehicle parking plan for the airport, stating that any parking program will be delayed until January of 2022. RIAC is requesting that FlightLevel Aviation, the fixed-base operator, meet with New England Airlines, representatives from the Town Council, and representatives from RIAC to discuss the matter further, “with the intent of initiating a viable parking program in January 2022.”
The letter went on to say that the viability of the parking program was of utmost importance, and pointed out that guaranteed spots for long term or year-round parking would actually undermine the parking program due to the limited amount of space available. RIAC said Bethany’s Airport Diner would have five spots allocated to it, however.
RIAC informed the council that the application with the Block Island Water Company to access town water had been denied. The airport currently has a well to provide water for the terminal, including the diner. Water District Superintendent John Breunig has expressed concern in the past about the water company’s ability to meet the town’s high water demand in the summer, and has indicated the need to address town and water company infrastructure with a water capacity study. The RIAC application, along with one other application, were denied until the study can be conducted later this year.
RIAC is pushing ahead with a $1.9 million rehabilitation of the airport ramp, which will include new pavement, new tie-down moorings, and new pavement markings. The airport ramp is the area in front of the terminal where loading, unloading, and parking of planes and helicopters occur. RIAC has engaged McFarland Johnson to prepare plans, specifications and permit applications required to solicit bids for the year-long project. McFarland Johnson has completed the design and bid phase and is working on the construction administration work. RIAC expects to have the project substantially completed by May 2022, with final completion slated for November
RIAC is also moving forward in the development of a proposal to expand the aircraft ramp and will submit the project for consideration by the Federal Aviation Administration this fall. RIAC anticipates the expanded ramp will result in an increase of aviation activity. RIAC plans to provide the council with an overview of the project as it is developed, so that the Town Council can convey its support to the FAA and Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation. RIAC’s letter also expressed to the council their appreciation of the council’s clarification that complaints of residents regarding aircraft noise and the efforts of litigants do not express the views of the majority of island residents. Upon examination of correspondence sent from the town council to RIAC, including a letter dated July 28 and the council resolution of August 18 which both address RIAC’s proposals, The Times could not find the clarifications RIAC speaks of.
RIAC appears to be referring to a 2018 lawsuit filed by 12 Block Island residents against Heliblock, the helicopter touring company that operates out of the Block Island Airport. RIAC was drawn into the lawsuit in 2019, with litigation ongoing.
At meetings on Block Island with RIAC and town representatives in April 2017 and June 2018 numerous residents expressed their concerns with noise and intrusions by Heliblock. It does not appear from the correspondence obtained by The Times that the town council has sought to downplay or invalidate any complaints or lawsuits by the citizens of Block Island.