Consultants told the East Hampton Town Board this week that they expect a new layout plan for the East Hampton Airport could be ready by early spring if the town agrees to move forward with a design recommended at a board work session on Tuesday.
Board members gave their tacit approval to the design, which eliminates one of the airport’s three existing runways.
Consultant Henry Young told the board that the town does not need to complete a full airport master plan in the near future if they aren’t going to significantly change the configuration of the facility. It was the first time the board had been told it could save money that way.
The airport layout plan, or ALP in federal parlance, is needed to legalize the operation of the airport in the eyes of the Federal Aviation Administration. “We’re in violation of federal laws for not having a layout plan,” airport manager Jim Brundige told the board and a small crowd of pilots and local residents in the audience. “You need to get this done.”
Completing the layout plan, including a draft environmental impact statement, will cost the town $100,000, Mr. Young said. He would not speculate how much it would cost the town to do a complete master plan in the future, but it would be considerably more.
Councilman Pete Hammerle said the town should also start working up estimates of how much it will cost to conduct improvements and repairs, 14 projects in all, that are suggested in the proposed layout plan. The largest of the projects would be the repaving of runway 4-22, which would become the airport’s sole secondary runway. The runway know as 16-34 would be eliminated and repaved as a taxiway because it lies too close to the parking apron.
The repaving of the secondary runway is expected to cost about $4 million. There is a also a suggestion for the addition of a seasonal control tower to direct traffic in order to control noise, which would cost $400,000 per year or more.
The town has been debating for years whether such high costs can be born by the town through the airport’s revenue stream. The goal would be to avoid accepting money from the FAA, which some critics argue restricts the town’s power to manage the airport according to its own interests. Recently, that argument has been questioned by Supervisor Bill McGintee and others, who have said they aren’t sure FAA restrictions apply, regardless of whether the town takes federal money.
Federal and state grants would cover 95 percent of the cost of any major work done at the airport. They would come with a requirement that the town agree to keep the airport fully accessible to the national airspace system, among other things. Residents opposed to the airport have objected to, and sued over, the town’s past acceptance of FAA grant money. They have said being free of any grant assurances may allow the town to impose limits on traffic at the airport to reduce noise.
Mr. Brundige has said federal grant assurances have little or no impact on the amount of traffic at the airport or the town’s ability to limit aircraft usage.