After more than 20 years of discussion and often heated debate, the East Hampton Town Board is expect to adopt the Airport Master Plan when it meets on Thursday night.
“It’s about time we dealt effectively with the airport,” Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione said Tuesday. “The whole idea behind this is to develop a professionally managed, safe airport. After 20 years of bickering, the town stands at the threshold of resolving the issues at the airport.”
Once the board acts, the airport layout plan, which is part of the master plan, will be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration for its review.
The Republican majority on the board wants to use FAA guidelines for management of the airport so the town can continue to receive federal funds for airport capital improvements.
Opposition to the use of FAA funds to run the airport has come from many individuals and groups who are concerned about noise and want to see local control of the airport.
Although the Master Plan does address noise at the airport, it does not contain enough language on noise abatement to suit Kathy Cunningham, chairwoman of the Airport Noise Abatement Advisory Committee, which was appointed by the town.
“We don’t oppose the airport, we are here to support it,” she said. “We are trying to help the Town Board understand the noise impact on the community.”
She said there are good elements in the master plan and she would be more in favor of it if it evaluated noise according to the town code. That code, she said, would require the town to make no improvements to the airport unless noise levels are evaluated as a single noise event. The FAA, she said, evaluates noise every day of the year and then averages that noise in decibels.
That kind of measurement for the East Hampton area doesn’t reflect the summer season here when noise, especially from helicopters, increases dramatically, she said.
The master plan, which describes the airport as a no-growth institution, calls for the repaving and reopening of runway 4-22, which has been closed pending repairs. The plan calls for closing runway 16-34 and turning it into a taxiway. The main runway, 10-28, remains unchanged.
The plan also calls for installing a seasonal air traffic control tower, deer fencing around the airport and landside development, which would allow commercial enterprises to buy and use some of the land around the airport.
“I think the master plan has been very well thought out. The town looked at every aspect of the airport and determined it was a no-growth airport, so any projects that are proposed have their basis in that, which will help us maintain a safe and secure airport,” said airport manager Jim Brundige.
“The plan is not really a noise program. That we deal with on a daily basis. This is more of a facilities document,” he said.
Mr. Stanzione said the next phase for the airport will be to work toward “professionalization and an operating strategic plan, including capital planning,” he said.
Tom Lavinio, president of the East Hampton Pilots Association, said the airport plan is solid, but he cautioned that the tower will have to be manned all the time. “That’s an expensive proposition,” he said.
“But anything that is good for the airport I’m in favor of,” he said. “Of course, not everybody has a use for the airport and there have been so many people against it and so many for it over the years. But anything that will help the pilots is just great,” he said.