The East Hampton Town Board is proposing four regulations at the Town airport—including curfews, a ban on helicopters during summer weekends and a limit on flight operations—all to curb noise.
On Wednesday, during a special meeting held by the Town Board, the town and its consulting firm, Harris, Miller, Miller & Hanson, presented what they said are the most tailored solutions to the specific problem:
“Noise from aircraft operating at East Hampton Airport disturbs many residents of the East End of Long Island. Residents find helicopters more disturbing than any category of fixed-wing aircraft. Disturbance caused by all types of aircraft is most significant when operations are most frequent and in the evening, night and early morning hours,” said Katie van Heuven, an attorney with Kaplan, Kirsch & Rockwell.
The town has tentatively scheduled a public hearing at LTV Studio in Wainscott on Thursday, March 5, to discuss the restrictions which include a ban on flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. for all types of aircraft; a ban on “noisy” aircraft year-round from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m.—evening, nights and early morning hours; a ban on helicopters during holidays and weekends from May 1 to September 30; and a limit on noisy aircraft—allowing only two operations in any week during the summer season, meaning one take off and one landing.
According to HMMH representative Ted Baldwin, weekends would begin at noon on Thursdays and last through Mondays at noon, and holidays would include the days before and after each holiday.
All the restrictions are meant to build on each other to achieve the goal of cutting down noise complaints, Mr. Baldwin said.
If all four were in effect last year, the laws would have affected 7,905 or 31 percent of operations out of the nearly 26,000 operations during that time. Out of the more than 22,000 complaints registered with the town last year, 74 percent, or more than 16,500 complaints had to do with the issues the four proposed restrictions address.
Officials from all over the East End—Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach, Mayor Jeff Sander of North Haven, Mayor Don Louchheim of Sagaponack, and politicians like Assemblyman Fred Thiele and representatives of U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, Senator Kenneth LaValle and Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski—attended Wednesday’s meeting to hear the town’s recommendations.
None of the government representatives said they could comment yet on the particulars, saying they needed time to process the proposals and speak with their constituents.
There seemed to be some positive feedback on the work the town has done thus far, however, representatives from the aviation community turned out to express its disappointment with the proposed laws.
Bonnie Krupinski, who serves on the town’s Budget and Financial Advisory Committee Airport Finance Sub-Committee, said she believes such restrictions would ultimately shut down the airport.
“The restrictions are much too strict,” she said. “I believe this is the beginning of closing the airport. The group against the airport has achieved what is set out to do.”
The Friends of the East Hampton Airport, an organization that filed suit against the FAA to determine whether it actually had the ability to waive grant assurances, which ultimately paved the way for the town to set restrictions at the airport, also argues the regulations will be extremely detrimental.
“The town has proposed an unprecedented and drastic set of restrictions that would block access to a federally funded airport, discriminate against helicopters and other operators and will likely fail to ever go into effect for a variety of reasons,” said spokesman Loren Riegelhaupt in a statement. “If enacted, the Town Board’s recommendations would essentially shut down the airport during the summer. The Town has also taken this severe and significant step without the FAA’s consultation or input. In addition, the Town’s 2015 budget relies on an increase in air traffic. Today’s proposed restrictions would cut traffic by 31 percent, thus creating a significant budget deficit and forcing property tax increases. We are greatly disappointed that the Town has refused to change its course as these actions will have deep and far-reaching impacts on the local economy.”
Gerard Boleis, chairman of the airport’s aviation sub-committee, also spoke harshly against the proposal and the recommendations given by the airport’s noise subcommittee He said the town should have worked with the Federal Aviation Administration to undertake noise control regulations, but nonetheless, airport safety should have been the town’s first priority as well as maintaining the airport’s ability to financially support itself.
The noise subcommittee two weeks ago released its recommendations for curfews and bans similar to the four regulations the town is now proposing. ”
These overreaching noise proposals would also reduce airport revenue that is badly needed to maintain the airport since the town has rejected FAA funding that is traditionally used by airports across the country for airport infrastructure,” Mr. Boleis said. “We have a deep concern that going forward with the noise subcommittee’s proposed restrictions will hurtle the town into years of litigation at the cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars, which the town will ultimately lose.”
Before anything can be set in motion, however, the town’s Budget and Finance Advisory Committee must analyze how the regulations will affect the airport’s finances.
“We need to figure out how we’re going to pay for everything,” said BFAC member Peter Wadsworth. “Emotions are starting to run high and will run higher before this is over … our job is to figure out how we are going to pay for this given the restrictions proposed. We believe it is possible to finance a reasonable level of capital expenditures so the airport does not get shut down, and we sincerely hope that doesn’t happen.”
Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, who serves as the board’s airport liaison, said the BFAC will likely have their analysis done by next week and the Town Board will likely hold a public hearing at LTV on March 5. She said the board expects to take final action in mid-March so the regulations are in place for the 2015 summer season.