Zoning Talk Wednesday Could Bring New Uses for Abandoned Haverhill ‘Dutton’ Airport

A 1977 United States Geological Survey aerial photograph shows the longer runway then in use and a shorter runway to the left that was already abandoned.

What was once Haverhill (Dutton) Airport, off Route 110 near Kenoza Lake, could bustle once again—not with aircraft engines overhead, but with modern manufacturing.

The site plays a prominent role in “Haverhill Vision 2035,” the city’s draft master plan, and is likely to draw public interest Wednesday night. That’s when a special Mayor/City Council Conference takes place. The deliberation is aimed at reaching consensus on future rezoning which requires Planning Board input, public hearings and passage of new ordinances by the City Council.

Besides the abandoned Dutton Airport, another industrial target is across Broadway, Route 97, opposite Computer Drive. Planners envision both parcels be rezoned as “Business Parks” with a new definition allowing for “mixed use industrial and commercial.”

Haverhill Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury recently told WHAV the city’s last master plan designated Dutton Airport to be used as an office park, but evolution of business and industry made that plan impractical. The airport area to be rezoned is described as “Newton Road and Amesbury Road south of I-495.”

The airport, with its 2,100-foot asphalt runway, dates back to at least 1929. In the 1940s, it was known as Walker-Dutton Airport. It closed less than 10 years after its owner, Howard Dutton, crashed there during an aerobatic display in 1977. For years, Dutton was part of what was known as the “Dutton Sky Devils,” appearing at air shows across the country. Besides the runway, the site included a hangar, charter, flight instruction and plane rental areas.

To encourage modern manufacturing, draft plans also call for requiring fewer parking spaces following the trend of fewer workers; changing maximum building heights from 50 feet to 85 feet, to accommodate “high-bay and modular industrial spaces with additional offices or flexible industrial space above;” reducing front setbacks for denser land use;” and other changes.

The meeting takes place Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., in the City Council office, room 204, Haverhill City Hall.

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