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Sat, Apr 25, 2015

East Hampton Town Board Approves Airport Restrictions

Airport Supporters Respond With A Legal Challenge

The East Hampton, CT Town Board last week voted to enact three restrictions to operations at East Hampton Airport the board said would reduce noise from aircraft.

The restrictions include a mandatory curfew from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on all aircraft, and an additional curfew from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. on "noisy" aircraft. A third limits operations by "noisy" aircraft to one trip per week during the summer season. The new rules are set to go into effect Memorial Day weekend, according to Newsday.

27east reports that only Councilman Fred Overton cast one "no" vote on one of the ordinances. He said that he felt that the restriction would "seriously inconvenience airport users," and that he would prefer an approach that "slight favors users of the airport."

A group calling itself the "Friends of East Hampton Airport Coalition" has filed a lawsuit to prevent the restrictions from being enacted. The East Hampton Patch reports that Loren Reigelhaupt, a spokesman for the group, said the suit had been filed after the organization "concluded that we had no alternative but to [sue] after months of trying, without success, to convince the Town to follow its obligations under federal aviation law."

The suit holds that the town does not have standing to "use their police powers to regulate aircraft in flight or to impose airport noise or access restrictions." It further says that the bans are in violation of the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990. That law says that airport proprietors may not impose any noise or access restrictions on any aircraft classified by the FAA as "Stage 2" or "Stage 3" aircraft without complying with the requirements of the act, which the Friends group says the Town has not done.

The lawsuit also says the town has violated the Airway Improvement Act of 1982. The town has received federal funding for the airport, and therefore must keep it "open and accessible to all times of aircraft and aeronautical activities, including commercial activities.

“The restrictions violate these grant assurances because they are unreasonable and anti-competitive in nature, unfairly discriminate against certain aircraft, and will so deprive the Airport of revenue as to make it difficult or impossible for the Airport to be properly maintained,“ the lawsuit reads.

The Town says that the lawsuit is "entirely predictable." Officials say that the Friends group has ignored multiple studies and public meetings, and the Town waited until its obligations to the federal government regarding grant funding had been met before passing the restrictions; that only the "most disturbing" aircraft are affected; and that the rules are "only as restrictive as necessary."

The Town said in a news release that it is "prepared for litigation" and will defend itself against the charges. The Town said that the airport users "are now going to force the Town to spend scarce airport funds to defend these restrictions rather than working to make this airport the best it can be.”

(Image from the Friends of East Hampton Airport Coalition Facebook page)

FMI: www.easthamptonct.gov/Pages/EastHamptonCT_Clerk/index, www.facebook.com/SaveHTO

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