Tweed renovations could take off even though East Haven remains opposed

All systems may soon be a go for Tweed New Haven Regional Airport to have its planned $25 million renovations — against East Haven’s behest.

After a two-month pause, the Tweed Airport Authority will start construction of two safety zones and begin expansion into nearby swamps owned by East Haven. Tweed Airport officials also filed a federal lawsuit this week against East Haven officials to prevent them from “interfering” with the airport’s construction. The hearing, which is set for May 5, will determine whether construction may proceed in East Haven, even as work continues on the New Haven side, Tweed Airport Authority Hugh Manke said Tuesday.

“Either we’re going to have a viable airport [in three years],” Manke said, “or we’ll have no airport.”

Tweed officials filed the lawsuit in response to a state cease-and-desist order submitted last week by East Haven Mayor April Capone Almon and other town officials in order to postpone the expansion into the swamplands of the town.

East Haven had successfully paused Tweed expansion in February, causing a 60-day pause on work that ended last week.

But this time, if the airport wins the lawsuit, the town order will not be enough, Tweed Airport officials said.

In response to the lawsuit and comments by Manke in the New Haven Register calling East Haven an “obstacle,” Almon told the Register on Wednesday that it is “very telling that [Manke] refers to East Haven as an obstacle.”

She also told the Register that she is concerned for East Haven’s “well-being.”

Almon was not available for comment Tuesday.

About the continuing opposition from East Haven, authority officials mostly brush it off, they said. Tweed Airport Authority Chairman Mark Volchek ’00 GRD ’00 told the News last week that there was only a little opposition to the plan.

“We’re still wanting to work in East Haven,” he told the News last week. “It’s really in [Almon’s] court now.”

Almon told the Register on Tuesday that she sticks by the cease-and-desist order and will continue to fight the expansion.

“My position is firm,” she said.

Both Tweed Airport officials and East Haven officials met with lawyers Tuesday in order to set a hearing date. Now, “short of the judge getting ill,” Manke said Tuesday, the hearing will be on May 5.

At the hearing, a federal judge will decide whether Tweed Airport contractors can undergo construction in airport grounds within East Haven town limits. Until then, Manke explained, the contractors will continue with construction in all areas outside East Haven.

Manke added that airport officials filed a statement with the judge saying that the airport will suffer “irreparable harm” if the judge does not grant authority officials a restraining order against East Haven. He stressed in an interview that any further delays would result in a loss of federal funds, which the federal government will divert to projects elsewhere.

In February, Tweed Airport Authority officials started the Runway Safety Project — the name of the expansion proposal — in order to revitalize the small site, which loses customers to other larger airports in the Tri-State Area, officials have told the News since the plan’s start.

But since then, many East Haven residents have complained over a permit the authority received from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

The permit allowed airport contractors to expand the airport into swamplands owned by East Haven. Almon said in February that the authority unjustly went over East Haven officials’ heads.

Volchek and other authority officials have told the News in the past that the DEP permit was enough.

The Tweed Airport Authority has tried multiple times in the past to expand the grounds, but each time, East Haven officials and residents had shot the attempt down.

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