Haverhill Councilors to Decide Zoning Changes Tonight to Advance Re-use of Former Dutton Airport

Utile consultant Will Cohen, Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. and Mark Bobrowski, land use lawyer. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Click image for Haverhill City Council agenda.

Plans to convert the former Dutton Airport into Haverhill’s newest business park comes before the Haverhill City Council tonight for zoning changes.

The former airport, off Route 110 near Kenoza Lake, closed in 1987. As WHAV first reported two years ago, the city’s new master plan envisioned the land and another site off Route 97 be used as business parks, but were placed on hold while landowners were consulted. Haverhill Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. outlined the concept in 2020.

“Those two industrial parks are conceived. The idea that we believe that those would be really excellent—the master plan bears that out—that we really think that those would be great locations. We’ve scoured the entire city to find areas where this makes sense and those are the two areas but, again, it does require conversations with the owners and those conversations are not concluded,” Pillsbury said.

City Councilors are now being asked to replace the former designation of “office park” with “business park” and overlay a “commercial highway” zone over the properties. In a letter to councilors, Pillsbury writes the zoning changes allow the city to team with the Greater Haverhill Foundation and private landowners to assemble the land, engineer the plans for the infrastructure and position the property for business park uses.

Pillsbury said the new park will have the capacity to accommodate up to 800,000 square feet of new industrial space.

Access to the park will be from the north side of Route 110 with a new entrance and traffic signals opposite Elliot Street and directly off an Interstate 495 ramp. The city’s Planning Board recently recommended councilors approve the zoning changes.

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.

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m. remotely and in-person at the Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers, room 202, Haverhill City Hall, 4 Summer St., As a public service, 97.9 WHAV plans to carry the meeting live.

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