The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission is looking to expand its business park to increase revenue and fill demand for new leases.

Expansion plans are still in the early discussion stage. Airport manager Ann Crook said she has begun meeting with town officials in West Tisbury and Edgartown and also the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to explore ideas for expanding the park. The airport straddles the two towns.

While most of the planning focuses on current uses such as light industrial, space for tradesmen, offices and warehousing, the commission is also kicking around expanded uses such as a hotel, grocery store or retail shopping.

“A lot of airports have hotels, even Nantucket,” said commission chairman Myron Garfinkle in an interview this week. “If we had anything like that it would have to be on a very minor scale, located close to the terminal for the convenience of business people.

“It’s obviously not going to be a tourist location. We have no desire to compete, nor do we think we should be in that business. But I wouldn’t rule out in a perfect world, the opportunity to have a small hotel by the airport that could serve the traveling public.” He also said: “I would love to see some type of retail expansion out there if the Martha’s Vineyard Commission was comfortable with it. If the Island would be happy with that, we would be ready to service that need. We wouldn’t do anything that wouldn’t comply with all the regulations.”

There are currently 40 tenants in the airport business park, who rent lots of various sizes and various prices, according to individually negotiated contracts. The area most people think of as the business park is a 55-acre tract east of the airport runways, situated entirely in the town of Edgartown.

But a smaller number of tenants surround the airport entrance road and terminal area, which covers 17 acres in West Tisbury.

Light industrial park surrounds the Island's only airport. — Mark Lovewell

The leases provide $1.3 million in rental revenue for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport annually, according to Ms. Crook.

She said there is room to expand on land abutting both sides of the business park.

“There’s demand for it,” Ms. Crook said. “We’ve got a waiting list of about 10 to 15 people that want space in the business park. Also because the revenue from the business park supports the airport and we can always use more revenue.”

Ms. Crook said expansion of the business park could provide the airport with an additional $500,000 or more in revenue from leases.

Current projects, such as the new rescue and firefighting building now under construction, have put pressure on airport finances. Ms. Crook said the commission is also planning for a new terminal building in the near future. Robert Rosenbaum, who chairs the finance subcommittee, said the commission is now considering borrowing money to improve its cash position so it can adequately operate the airport while it funds capital projects.

Regulatory hurdles abound. Any business park expansion would need to pass muster with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as well as state and Island environmental agencies.

“I think some people think the hard part is just the length of the regulatory time it takes to get through the FAA and the environmental approval processes,” Ms. Crook said. “That’s got to be done. We’re already doing that. The next hard part will be the community getting together and deciding what they want it to look like.”

Any retail use such as a shopping center, grocery store, or hotel would require a zoning change if located on the Edgartown side of the business park. That section is zoned as a B-4 trades district where retail use is strictly limited.

The West Tisbury side of the business park is zoned as light industrial, with retail use allowed.

“I would love to see that area a bit more saturated than it is now,” Mr. Garfinkle said. “Every car that stops there is not going to Edgartown to saturate their traffic issues this time of year. The business park is underutilized, and it has an opportunity to serve the Island very broadly. There’s a chance here to offer people business locations at a very reasonable price. It’s a unique spot. There’s not that much reasonably priced acreage left on the Island.”

One land use often mentioned for the airport location — housing — is off the table. According to Ms. Crook, the FAA will not allow housing on the one-square-mile airport property, with extremely limited exceptions.

“What I’ve heard is a lot more desire to build out with more of the stuff people don’t want to see in town,” Ms. Crook said. “Light industrial or a place where big rigs, trucks and tractor trailers can park because there are issues with those parking all over the place. With the new law in November there’s been talk about having marijuana store at the airport so you don’t have to worry about it being next to a school. What I’ve heard so far is people want to have all the stuff they don’t want in their neighborhoods here, which might be reasonable. We want to make sure that we work with the town of Edgartown if it’s in that town, or the town of West Tisbury if the property is in that town to make sure the airport commission’s vision of the expansion of the business park matches the town’s vision.”

Mr. Garfinkle said 20 years ago, conversations about zoning and land use were limited to light industrial and limited retail uses. But with growth on Martha’s Vineyard and pressure in the down-Island retail districts, he believes those conversations are changing. “Today, downtown Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven during the summer is so crazy, is so difficult, and rents are so high, that I think in today’s economy and in the near future, it might make sense to explore the airport’s options,” the commission chairman said.

Ms. Crook said expansion of the business park in Edgartown could begin as early as this fall, with a few lots newly available for leasing inside the current boundaries. She said at least a year of planning remains before the airport commission could expand the park beyond its current boundaries.