East Hampton Town’s airport planning consulting firm will begin work this week completing a final environmental impact statement and an airport layout plan for the East Hampton Airport, in order to have a seasonal control tower in place before the beginning of the summer season.
Henry Young, of the firm Young Environmental Sciences, presented his proposal, which would cost the town nearly $50,000, on Tuesday, March 16.
The project has been stalled since a public hearing was held last September, due to an ongoing debate about the best way to address the large number of technical questions raised at the hearing. The town had initially planned to have its Planning Department answer the questions, but decided instead to hire Mr. Young to complete the work after Planning Director Marguerite Wolffsohn recommended Mr. Young for the technical portion of the job.
Last week, Councilman Pete Hammerle, who last year was the board’s liaison to the airport, asked Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who was just last month appointed airport liaison, to not sign off on the additional expenditure until Mr. Young presented his answers to the questions raised at the hearing to the board.
“We have more to add. The comments are done except for lines that say they will change the Final Environmental Impact Statement. It’s those changes that we are requesting to be funded,” Mr. Young said on Tuesday. “What we’re asking for is to replace one drawing in the draft with the draft airport layout plan. The existing drawing is not portrayed in the manner the FAA needs to process it.”
Mr. Hammerle said that he was concerned that a number of issues in a draft environmental impact statement might leave the town open to lawsuits, including a recommendation that Daniel’s Hole Road be moved in order to meet FAA mandated threshold requirements for the airport.
Mr. Young and Airport Manager Jim Brundige both said that they believed relocating the road, at a cost of $150,000, would be more cost effective than shortening the runway by creating a “displaced threshold,” which would require changing the lighting scheme at the airport—at a cost of about $350,000.
But Tom Twomey, an attorney and pilot who has long been interested in the regulation of the airport, told the board Tuesday morning that the town could easily address the runway issue by placing large baffles with a checkerboard pattern at the new end of the main runway, at a cost of about $10,000. He said that such baffles are in use at major airports throughout the country, including LaGuardia Airport.
Mr. Young said that he would examine that possibility.
Many of the comments at September’s hearing centered around what the environmental impact statement didn’t do to address noise abatement.
“Speakers at the hearing said they believed the document was woefully inadequate in many areas,” said Mr. Hammerle. “If it’s taken this long, it’s time to get the document right so that when we do get sued—and I do believe we’ll get sued no matter what we do—I want to be certain that document was beefed up.”
“The submission of the draft airport layout plan, regardless of what it says, presuming it conforms to FAA requirements, permits the town and FAA to agree you are now a full-fledged member of the airport community of this country. We’ve been out of status with this airport for many years,” said Mr. Young. “Noise abatement planning is not necessarily part of this process.”
Mr. Young added that many written comments entered into the record of the hearing implied that airports should be held to the same standards as the town’s zoning code, when noise from aircraft is not subject to the town’s zoning requirements but is controlled by the FAA.
“The town cannot regulate that. It’s simply out of your purview,” he said.
Mr. Young urged the town to complete the layout plan, which he said could be submitted “in draft without a signature to the FAA,” in order to allow the town to install a temporary control tower for the summer, which he said would help to regulate helicopter noise. His proposal included spending about $30,000 to complete the FEIS and another $20,000 to prepare the layout plan.
Mr. Brundige said that he and his staff were meeting with Robinson Aviation, the firm that they have contracted to build the control tower, this week to look at the site where the tower would be placed and to interview air traffic controllers.
“Our biggest concern is to get approval for FAA airspace,” he said.
“What you ultimately write and present to the board I leave to your great expertise,” Mr. Stanzione told Mr. Young. “I’m not going to go into a contract contingent on what you say. Pete is asking a different question. He’s saying we’re not going to hire you unless you say the right thing.”