The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission voted unanimously Thursday to bring a proposal to expand the airport business park to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, advancing a plan to open two new lots for development.

The plan has been under discussion for the past few years as a way to add new tenants and generate more income for the commercial airport. It will require approval from MVC to move forward.

At its regular meeting, the airport commission reviewed a draft of the plan, which would designate 12.2 additional acres for the park and create two new lots.

Speaking to the Gazette by phone Friday, airport director Geoffrey Freeman said though the plan would expand the park, it largely involves clarifying the mapping of the airport property.

In 1998, the MVC designated 64 acres to the park, portioned into 49 lots. Currently, only 49.8 acres and 38 lots are in use, Mr. Freement said, due to restrictions from the Federal Aviation Administration, which dictates airport land release.

The proposed expansion would designate additional airport land — on the West Tisbury side of the business park and along the fence line of the airport itself — for business park use.

The expansion would increase the park at 62 acres and 40 lots, still within the limits approved by the MVC through the DRI (development of regional impact) process,  Mr. Freeman said.

“We’re going to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to revisit the original documents,” said Mr. Freeman. “It’s not a true expansion it’s just a clarification of areas of land to be used.”

The plan has already gone through a lengthy vetting process with the FAA, including extensive environmental review, and has been approved by the agency for non-aeronautical use, he said.

If green-lighted by MVC, the airport commission will solicit new tenants for the additional lots through a request for proposals (RFP). “We do have a very long list of interested parties that want to move to the airport business park,” said Mr. Freeman.

Setting their sights on next steps, the commission voted 7-0 to move the process along, eyeing completion by the end of the year.

In other business, Mr. Freeman reviewed year-end reports for air traffic at the airport, which have declined significantly over last year.

According to Mr. Freeman, air traffic to the Vineyard was down 21 per cent in 2020 from the previous year, with a notable decline in traffic towards the end of the year. After a temporary uptick in October and November, Mr. Freeman reported that traffic in December was 14 per cent lower in 2020 than in 2019.

In-plane passengers also declined in 2020, he said, citing a 69 per cent decrease in the number of commercial passengers flying this year, with a particularly striking decrease of 53 per cent from this December to last.

“For calendar year 2019, we carried 50,351 passengers. For calendar year 2020, we carried 15,000,” Mr. Freeman told the commission.

According to Mr. Freeman, the decline echoes trends across the country and will likely continue into the foreseeable future.

“I was just reading a news article today that says airports are going to see approximately a $17 billion loss between now and mid ’22 with just an overall decline in aviation traffic,” he said.

Also Thursday, the commission voted to approve increases to aircraft ramp fees, raising the price of parking for planes stationed in the airfield. The adjustment is the final piece of a multi-year review of the airport’s rates and charges, airport business manager Joan Shemit told the commission.

Additional adjustments to pricing for single-engine aircrafts were also among the proposed changes, shifting the fee structure to align more closely with how the airport charges its multi-engine aircrafts, she also said.

In the meeting, Ms. Shemit said the changes were drawn from detailed research about ramp fees at neighboring regional airports.