East Hampton Town Will Temporarily Close Airport; To Reopen With Restrictions

Update, Jan. 20:

The board voted unanimously Jan. 20 to approve this resolution.

Original Story Jan. 18:

The East Hampton Town Board is slated to vote Thursday, Jan. 20 on a measure to “deactivate” its town-owned airport in Wainscott in late February, reopening a “new, publicly owned, private-use airport” at the site in early March, announced East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc on Tuesday, Jan. 18.

The new airport would operate under a “Prior Permission Required” (PPR) framework, requiring aircraft to have received permission to land in East Hampton before they can use the airport.

“The PPR framework will allow the implementation and enforcement of use restrictions to limit airport traffic and noise, while also addressing safety, environmental, and other concerns,” according to Mr. Van Scoyoc’s announcement. “The parameters of the Prior Permission Required program would be developed, presented to the public for discussion and comment, and set in place before the start of the summer season in May.”

After decades of community upheaval over the increasing traffic at the airport, during which East Hampton Town had not been able to do much to regulate air traffic there due to assurances it made to accept aircraft to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)as a condition of receiving grant money, those so-called “grant assurances” to the FAA expired in 2021, setting the stage for the town to chart a new future for the airport.

The press release Tuesday announcing Thursday’s vote came just after a marathon town board work session, at which 42 callers weighed in during a two-hour-long public comment period, mostly on airport issues, with callers raising numerous concerns on all sides of the issue of how to regulate the airport.

After the callers spoke, the town’s consultant, Bill O’Connor of Cooley Law, gave a presentation on the logistics of closing and reopening the airport.

“Obtaining maximum local control will provide the town with flexibility to implement and adjust restrictions consistent with the community’s evolving needs,” according to the law firm’s recommendation.

Limits allowed under the PPR framework “can include defining aircraft operations for which permission will not be granted and authorizing airport use rights for certain users, such as establishing restrictions based on time of day, type of aircraft, noise level, type of operation (ie, commercial or private), and on environmental factors, such as the use of leaded aviation fuel, or electric aircraft,” according to the town’s consultants.

According to the timeline recommended to the town, the town will notify the FAA that the the airport closure will be scheduled for Feb. 28, 2022, with the new, private-use airport slated to open on March 4.

The resolution expected on Thursday declares the closure of the East Hampton Airport and opening of the new private use airport to pose no significant adverse environmental impact under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).

The long-term operational changes and restrictions in the future PPR regulations will be subject to SEQRA review ,with opportunity for public input before becoming final.

According to the text of the resolution to be introduced Thursday, the process will be designed so “a balance can be struck between aviation stakeholders and the community such that implementing restrictions or other limitations on operations can address much of the community’s concern without foreclosing the ability of certain operators to continue operating out of the new [private use] airport.”

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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