The effort to impose restrictions on aircraft at East Hampton Town Airport took another incremental step forward on Tuesday when consultants presented the town board with the scope for a draft environmental impact statement that reflects input from the public and the board.
The board is expected to adopt a statement “scope,” essentially a table of contents detailing the information to be included in the impact statement, at its meeting on April 6.
The town’s plan to implement a prior-permission-required policy at the airport in order to address residents’ complaints about the quantity of takeoffs and landings and the attendant noise, particularly from jets and helicopters, was thwarted by a New York State Supreme Court justice’s imposition of a temporary restraining order just prior to a planned brief closure and reopening of the airport last May. In October, the judge ruled that the town could not impose restrictions before first conducting an extensive environmental analysis as required under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQRA. The board had planned to study environmental impacts in real time, after the implementation of restrictions. The town also wants to study potential impacts of permanent closure of the airport when legally permissible to do so.
A draft impact statement scope was published on Dec. 15. Public comment was accepted through Jan. 27. Following adoption of a final scope, as expected next month, a draft generic environmental impact statement will be prepared for review, Peter Feroe of the AKRF consultancy told the board on Tuesday. The goal is to have a complete draft impact statement by the summer, he said. That would be published for public comment, followed by a public hearing. “Then there would be a final G.E.I.S.,” reflecting responses to comments received. A findings statement would follow, summarizing environmental impacts and mitigation and setting forth the town’s rationale for a decision on imposing restrictions. Adoption of that statement will conclude the SEQRA process, and the town board may then impose those restrictions when legally permissible.
The final impact statement will, “put you in the best position to make judgments about what the implications are of the proposed P.P.R.,” said Dan Ruzow, a consulting attorney, as well as of potential closure of the airport and its implications for surrounding airports, where both air and ground traffic would likely increase. “But it will enable you to make a decision on it that is informed with all of this best available information,” he said.