203 New Tweed parking spaces are fine

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Rendering of the expanded Tweed Airport.

Tweed Airport has been given permission to build 203 new ones temporary” parking spaces in anticipation of increased holiday travel demand at the current New Haven terminal — and ahead of the planned construction of a new, larger terminal on the East Haven side.

Approval of the parking expansion came Wednesday night during the last online meeting of the City Planning Commission.

The airport’s managing contractor, Avports, has applied for site plan approval to the Commission to expand the existing 927-space parking lot into two unpaved lots.

Tweed’s proposed new car park shaded in dark grey.

We see this as an interim solution while we work on building the East Terminal,” Avports attorney Joe Williams told commissioners Wednesday, referring to Tweed’s planned expansion to a larger terminal across the East Haven border. We are getting ready to move the bulk of the parking lot and the airport to East Haven.”

Williams said the airport management company originally planned to add 507 parking spaces, but negotiated with City Plan staff to the 203 now approved.

The airport also plans to submit a future site plan for 34 new parking spaces in what is currently there inland wetlands,” but decided to wait until the required environmental assessment was completed before submitting that proposal.

Avports officials said they sought to increase parking to meet the demand already seen at the airport and in anticipation of increased travel during the winter holiday season. Avelo Airlines has made Tweed its “East Coast hub” and established its commercial air ticket service from New Haven, including nonstop flights to 14 different cities, including Orlando, Tampa Bay, Nashville, Savannah, Charleston, Chicago, Washington , DC, and Raleigh.

Airline customers are in the hundreds and thousands, regardless of how many parking lots we have,” said Andrew King of Avports.

Avports slide explaining how ride sharing is increasing neighborhood traffic.

Traffic Engineer Don Ton explained Wednesday that airport customers are accepting more vacation trips,” than business trips,” meaning their average length outside of New Haven is longer on average—and cars stay longer in the parking lot.”

The new parking lot is designed to relieve parking pressure and reduce congestion in the surrounding Morris Cove area, Tone said. He argued that the additional parking would disincentivize travelers from using companies like Uber and Lyft, which double the number of car trips to and from the airport and contribute to increased traffic.

“Pervious” pavement?

Avports presents commissions.

Avports asked the commission to waive the city’s zoning code requirement that 50 percent of paved areas, such as parking lots, be either shaded” by greenery or composed of a reflective surface. The purpose of this requirement is to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the pavement – an attempt to mitigate global warming and reduce urban heat island,” which makes densely populated metropolitan areas like New Haven more vulnerable to high temperatures.

Why should Tweed be exempt from this reflectivity requirement?

King told the City Planning Commission that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations prohibit the use of reflective materials at the airport, as the glare can be dangerous to aircraft taking off and landing, as well as vegetation that can attract wildlife that interferes with aircraft operations.

Instead of incorporating reflective surfaces or plants into the parking design, Avports plans to use porous” pavement material p 70 percent empty space on the surface.’ That material delays precipitation” and has a cooling effect,” claimed engineer Ray Payer, although there is currently no way to quantify the extent of this cooling effect.

Problems of environmental protection and public transport

An online public hearing on the parking expansion proposal drew 19 opponents, many of whom linked the proposed new parking to Tweed’s long-term expansion plans in East Haven. Many of the opponents were residents of the surrounding Morris Cove and East Haven neighborhoods who objected to the environmental and quality of life impacts of the airport’s planned growth.

Those who testified expressed concern about the health risks posed by increased airport activity, including increased rates of cancer, lung disease and pregnancy complications from air pollution and noise-related disorders. One public commenter said that she had developed asthma over the past year and that her doctor suspected that Tweed’s increased activity at the airport had contributed to her condition. Opponents also expressed concerns that the expansion would disrupt bird migration and the adjacent marsh ecosystem.

Witness after witness urged the commission to table the case and await the results of an environmental impact assessment of the planned East Haven expansion, which FAA will receive from Tweed in the coming weeks or months.

Adding 270 parking spaces seems small and trivial… However, we are talking about a process that will inevitably change the environment and the quality of life,” said Morris Cove resident Susan Campion.

Other members of the public suggested the airport expand electric shuttle service to downtown New Haven and work more closely with CT Transport to encourage the use of public transport, not the construction of parking infrastructure.

Tweed needs to reconsider their original plan to use the shuttle, another broken promise they made,” said Gloria Belacicka of Morris Cove.

According to King Avports, Tweed does operate on-demand shuttles. All you have to do is … request a shuttle,” King said. This shuttle runs as often as anyone can hope it will run.”

However, witnesses argued that the airport could have done more to build its public transit system, including through more targeted marketing.

CT Transit also allows passengers to travel directly to Tweed by bus by taking the 206 bus from the city center – provided they explicitly request that the driver stop at the airport. Passengers hoping to take a bus from Tweed to downtown can call (203) 624-0151 during certain hours on the day of their flight to request a bus to pick them up from the airport.

Finally, some public testimony addressed the primary issue before the commission, whether to waive the reflectivity requirements for the asphalt surface and allow the airport to use porous pavement for parking.

Lorena Venegas, an active airport opponent from East Haven, questioned how the airport would manage the snow in the parking lot, arguing that sand cannot be used” on porous material.

Morris Cove neighbor Lisa Bassani expressed concern that the porous coating would be a sink for water.”

You have a big problem with flooding in this community,” Bassani said. We have a very inadequate tidal gate system that will not hold up” as climate change worsens.

Payer, an engineer representing Avports, later responded to Bassani’s concerns by arguing that the porous material would actually help deal with flooding in the area by conserving water. The permeable structure provides 40 percent storage capacity, which is much more than the native soil provides,” he said.

Commissioners return to a narrower field

Environmental and health concerns about the airport expansion were echoed in hours of public testimony, but the commission had limited opportunities to address those concerns.

Joe Williams, an attorney representing Avports, later told commissioners they could not legally wait for the results of a federal investigation into plans outside their direct purview, or consider impacts on issues such as bird migration.

For City Plan Commission Chairwoman Leslie Radcliffe, the main issue initially considered was whether allowing more parking was consistent with the commission’s larger vision to make the city less dependent on cars.

Now there’s no real reason for me to say Yes, let’s do more parking,” while we try to tell the rest of the city, No, we don’t want to have more parking,” Radcliffe said.

In response, commission consultant Roderick Williams cautioned that because the commission is reviewing a standard site plan and not a special exception request, it can only review the plan compliance with the zoning ordinance,” rather than general values ​​related to parking capacity.

Regarding the requested waiver of reflectivity, Commissioner Adam Marchand said: I don’t like to give up” this kind of environmental concerns. He said he wanted to encourage the applicant to replace part of the existing pavement with porous material to maximize the environmental benefits, but I don’t think the evidence is clear enough to require tearing up a certain area of ​​pavement.”

Marchand also asked about the capacity of the airport’s bike rack. Would you consider increasing the storage capacity for the bikes?’

The king replied, We’re seeing decent usage—one or two bikes at a time—but we’ve yet to see the kind of usage that would necessarily make us think we need to add a few more. But we have the ability to add a few more,” if the commission requires it.

In the end, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the site plan — provided the airport offers regular updates on maintenance and cleaning practices when it comes to the porous pavement material.

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