Lawmakers were scheduled Thursday to debate spending $1.5 million to study the Hartford-Brainard Airport and whether it should be closed or redeveloped.
The last-minute piece of legislation will be up for a public hearing today in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Commission.
The study, according to the bill, will examine the costs to closing the airport in Hartford’s South Meadows and potential options for future development.
It’s an age-old debate that was renewed earlier this year when the Hartford City Council passed a resolution to explore the idea of closing the airport and redeveloping the area. City council members want to see if the land can be repurposed into a marina with restaurants, apartments and stores.
“The fundamental reality is that Hartford does not receive adequate returns from the airfield to justify its operation,” Hartford Councilman James Sanchez wrote in a recent editorial for The Hartford Business Journal.
“Today, our total estimated value for the airport is almost $42,885,000, which would produce an annual tax bill of $2,230,149. This projected revenue could be invested into meaningful programs to help break the cycle of generational and systemic poverty that persists in Hartford.
But pilots are pushing back.
“Despite the confusing legalese terminology and lack of clarity, the clear purpose of this proposal has one intent and one intent only – a veiled but blatant attempt to close Hartford Brainard Airport. Period. This effort is not a new one,” Michael Teiger, a pulmonary specialist who lives in West Hartford, and is president of the Hartford Brainard Airport Association, Inc., said in written testimony.
A pilot for 39 years, Teiger says the best use for the property is an airport.
“It’s not about raising taxes either, since any very modest tax benefit of the 201-acre property would depend on development, and we don’t even have an archeological study, or an evaluation of toxic waste or ground contamination to determine if remediation and development can even be considered,” Teiger said. “Too many very expensive questions exist with this effort – everyone should feel very uncomfortable that this push to close Brainard that has yet to be clearly articulated.”
The airport is currently operated by the Connecticut Airport Authority.
“The CAA respectfully disagrees with the City Council’s stance regarding the highest and best use of Hartford-Brainard Airport property, but the Authority does not oppose a general study of this matter. The CAA believes that the airport can be a useful economic development tool, and we look forward to working with all interested parties to maximize the airport’s benefits to the City and the Greater Hartford region,” the CAA said in a statement.
In 2016, the Program Review and Investigations Committee determined that the best use of the 201-acre site was as an airport.
Teiger said that nothing has changed since that study and lawmakers should continue to trust its findings.
But the Program Review and Investigations Committee was disbanded before the report was voted upon by lawmakers.
The airport has been there since 1921 and there’s concern about environmental hazards, specifically coal tar.