STOW — Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski reports the Town of Stow has reached a settlement agreement to end litigation regarding aircraft flights to and from the American Heritage Museum.
The Town of Stow and Zoning Board of Appeals have been involved in pending litigation since 2015 over the Stow Building Commissioner and Stow Zoning Board of Appeals ordering the American Heritage Museum to cease and desist flights at its more than 100-acre property at 137 Barton Road.
To resolve the protracted and expensive legal battle, as well as to avoid the uncertainty of a trial and further appeals, the Town and the Collings Foundation, which owns and operates the museum, reached a settlement agreement that the Select Board believes is in the best interests of the community.
During the course of mediation, it became clear that should the Town proceed to a trial and lose, there would be no ability to impose limitations or safety measures on the flights to and from the American Heritage Museum. The members of the Select Board and Zoning Board of Appeals heavily weighed the impact to the community and agreed to this settlement versus the possibility that the Collings Foundation could fly 365 days per year and with any aircraft capable of taking off and landing at the Barton Road property.
The American Heritage Museum will continue hosting flights from the airfield on the property, but only under specific conditions outlined in the settlement agreement:
- The Collings Foundation may use the airfield on the property only for flights connected to the American Heritage Museum’s non-profit, educational purposes. All flights must involve aircraft on a list agreed upon by the Town and Collings Foundation, though that list can be updated with prior notice to the town.
- Such flights must be for passenger flights, exhibitions, demonstrations or travel to air shows, and shall occur no more than four weekends per year from April 1 to Oct. 31, or no more than eight days per year, and only when the Select Board or its designee have been given at least 14 days advance notice.
- Such flights shall occur only during major events and demonstrations at the museum, as defined in the settlement agreement, and only when the Select Board or its designee have been given at least 14 days advance notice.
- Flights for inspection and maintenance activities, and pilot training and proficiency, will be permitted, but only if necessary to facilitate the passenger flights, exhibitions and demonstrations previously noted.
- The total, combined number of flights shall not exceed 200 flights per calendar year.
- All flights shall occur between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., with exceptions for emergencies, unless the foundation obtains prior approval from the Town Administrator.
- No flights conducted by the Collings Foundation will fly over residences in Stow at less than 1,000 feet above ground level, except for takeoffs and landings, and no aggressive or unsafe flying or maneuvers are permitted over residences in Stow.
- The Collings Foundation will provide quarterly reports to document the number of flights that have occurred.
- The Collings Foundation will provide the Town access to all reports from equipment inspections and pilot examinations required by Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
- The Town and Collings Foundation will mutually agree upon an expert to advise the Select Board as to the adequacy of all safety, maintenance and inspection reporting provided.
- The Collings Foundation will not seek to expand its use of the property beyond the terms of the settlement.
To view the settlement agreement in full, click here.