Clear for takeoff: lawsuit against airport in Berkshire County on hold

An airport in Berkshire County is creating a lot of noise, and we’re not talking about the planes.

Three residents that live near the airport filed a lawsuit. While the suit is on hold right now, 13Investigates explained what all the turbulence is about.

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Great Barrington’s airport – the Walter Koladza airport – is in the heart of a quiet, residential neighborhood. Not everyone is a fan.

A 33-page lawsuit alleges the airport was operating without proper zoning. It stated the airport has been expanding without the town’s approval as required by law, going way beyond its original purpose as a single hangar on a grass runway in 1932.

Joseph Solan, the airport manager, said that even though the airport was grandfathered into the town’s old policies, the lawsuit worried him.

“It was definitely a very stressful time to be running the business. I’m not going to lie; we had thoughts of, ‘Are we going to close? Are we going to remain open? We don’t know.'”

Holly Hamer, her husband, Marc Fasteau, and one of their neighbors, Anne Fredericks, filed the lawsuit. All of them declined to do interviews.

They sued Great Barrington’s zoning board of appeals and named all five members – one of which is not on the board anymore. The board also declined to comment.

“We try to do everything with the neighbors, the neighborhood, and the town in mind,” said Solan. “We’ve changed a lot of our policies and procedures in just the last 10 years and even for most of it, the last five years, just to try and make sure everyone is happy.”

Once the lawsuit was filed in May 2022 and going through the legal channels, the airport filed for a special permit through Great Barrington’s select board – it acted as a parallel process.

The permit has a number of conditions that set zoning rules, including:
– No continuous takeoffs and landings before 8 a.m. and after 5 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
– For the rest of the year, no flying after 6 p.m.
– Submit an annual report to the town.

There are also other small bureaucratic changes.

“I’m willing to take those, by all means. It’s the 21st century. We can all figure out a way to run a business with a few minor restrictions on us,” Solan said.

As of now, the lawsuit has become moot. That means there’s no dispute because a resolution was reached.

The lawsuit also states the airport’s unauthorized operation creates noise and air pollution. 13 Investigates put it to the test with a decibel meter.