A key report on the potential fiscal impact of proposed new restrictions at East Hampton Airport will not be ready in time for a public hearing on Thursday.
Members of the Budget and Finance Advisory Committee had promised the East Hampton Town Board a report on the financial sustainability of the airport, if the new regulations are enacted, in time for the hearing, and most likely at Tuesday’s planned Town Board work session. But its members admitted Tuesday that after working on the issue for weeks, they have not been able to agree on definitive numbers.
“The committee has been unable to reach a consensus on a five-year earnings and cash flow forecast if the proposed rules are implemented,” BFAC Chairman Arthur Malman informed the Town Board in a memo on Monday, March 2.
Mr. Malman said the committee made no judgment on the appropriateness of the proposed airport restrictions. The committee reviewed a possible $5.1 to $8.5 million of capital costs and $550,000 in planning and development over five years, but faced with adding in $3 million for the anticipated costs of litigation related to the new regulations, its members could not agree on the financial impacts of the restrictions and whether the airport could remain self-sufficient. He said “a significant number of members of the committee” believe there are simply too many variables, and more research is needed.
Opponents seized on the committee’s failure to deliver as a sign that the new regulations—which would identify “noisy” aircraft and impose new restrictions and curfews, essentially eliminating helicopter traffic in the summer—should be rejected.
“The finance committee’s refusal to sign off on this deeply misguided proposal confirms the true economic hazards of the plan and the Town Board’s blatant disregard for these risks,” said Loren Riegelhaupt, who heads the Friends of the East Hampton Airport Coalition. “The airport’s future and the town’s financial health are on the line, and when you can’t get your own budget committee to sign off on a plan, shouldn’t it give pause and force everyone to reassess?
“We call on the board to postpone any vote on these restrictions so the people of East Hampton can get a full and fair analysis of what these restrictions mean for our community, property taxes, local businesses and economy,” he added.
As of Tuesday, the Town Board still expected to hold a public hearing on the four resolutions that would place restrictions on operations at the airport to combat noise. The restrictions would include a ban on all helicopters on weekends and a nighttime curfew during the summer months. The hearing will be held at a Town Board meeting on Thursday, March 5, at 4:30 p.m. at LTV Studios in Wainscott.