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Mar 10, 2015 12:36 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Bracing For Increased Helicopter Traffic If New East Hampton Rules Are Adopted

Mar 10, 2015 12:36 PM

Possible changes to airport regulations in East Hampton could create ripple effects in other East End communities like Southampton Village, whose officials are worried there will be more helicopter flights as summer visitors look for alternatives to using the East Hampton Airport.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley said he is closely monitoring a pending decision by East Hampton Town that would place noise and curfew restrictions on all planned helicopter trips year round, with stricter regulations during summer months. Without the ability to fly to East Hampton Airport on weekends or after a certain time on weekdays, air travelers will be looking for the next best thing, sending many people to the helipad in Southampton Village as well as the Montauk Airport.

While Mr. Epley said it would be difficult to limit the number of people using the heliport, which is located on Meadow Lane, the village can still take actions to make it as safe as possible, including hiring a full-time attendant and stepping up police officers’ enforcement of driving and parking regulations in the area.

“I have some significant safety concerns,” Mr. Epley said this week. “It is a small landing pad and it is unmanned and Meadow Lane is a highly traveled and very crowded road.”

The East Hampton Town Board is proposing four new regulations that would limit operations at the airport. The restrictions would ban all helicopters on weekends and holidays and set nighttime curfews for all aircraft, including a stricter curfew for aircraft classified as “noisy.” It would also regulate noisy aircraft to two operations per week—one takeoff and one landing.

According to Mr. Epley, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the Southampton heliport accommodates approximately 1,000 landings and takeoffs for helicopters of various sizes, only a fraction of the 6,000 reported in East Hampton during the same period. If Southampton were to receive even 10 percent of the East Hampton helicopter traffic, the increase of 600 landings and takeoffs could be potentially dangerous for Southampton, Mr. Epley said.

“We could be almost doubling the number of landings,” Mr. Epley said. “The helipad has always been a nice benefit to those people living in the village and the town that choose that mode of transportation, and for us to end up drawing people from the eastern part of the town and East Hampton, I am getting very concerned.”

Currently, pilots who use the Southampton heliport can land there from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week during the summer, with the evening time changing in the winter based on when it grows dark. The village charges $100 for helicopters weighing less than 5,000 pounds, and $150 for 5,000- to 15,000-pound aircraft. Anything above that weight is prohibited.

The village also plans to strictly enforce travel paths to and from the helipad, with the mayor saying there will be consequences for pilots who do not stick to the flight plan or the height restrictions in residential areas. Helicopters will approach and depart from the north based on Federal Aviation Administration recommendations for Southampton. The helicopters will primarily fly over the ocean, then turn above the Shinnecock Canal and travel over Shinnecock Bay for the northern approach and departure, he said.

According to the mayor, staffing the heliport full time could end up costing the village up to $25 an hour seven days a week during the summer. The second step, he said, would be to increase the police presence, since additional landings would mean more cars on already crowded small village streets, including Meadow Lane, which leads to both village and Suffolk County beaches. Village police will do their part to make sure people are parking in appropriate places and observing speed limits, he said.

“The only thing that will deter people is the aggressive enforcement of the rules around the operations to the heliport and the aggressive enforcement of parking rules,” Mr. Epley said. “These are things that we have to do if you double the volume. We will have to be much more aggressive than we have been.”

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Our Village and town board's need to get out in front of issues, rather than waiting for them to fall into their laps. Of course we will have more helicopter flights. So, what are they planning to do about them?
By moonpie (43), Southampton on Mar 13, 15 11:16 AM
2 members liked this comment
The plan is to hopefully issue more speeding and parking tickets on Meadow Lane enhance fee income to the village and also capitalize on increased landing fees. Its making the best out of a bad situation. Or, crossing your fingers and hoping there is no problem. Lets talk again in July...lets say the 5th?

By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Mar 13, 15 5:37 PM
I find it interesting that while East Hampton is attempting to restrict aircraft, West Hampton beach airport is moving forward into its second phase of the Hampton Business District Project. This project is a 50-acre site at Gabreski Airport as a Planned Development District, designed to bring in commercial development that will benefit the region. Perhaps the Southampton’s town supervisor sees the writing on the wall. She claimed that the county officials estimates of $38 million in new ...more
By kevinlocal (47), wainscott on Mar 13, 15 10:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
We're gonna need a bigger lot at Road G. :(
Unless they decide to take it away from us all together. Oh no, can they do that?
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Mar 14, 15 11:40 AM
East Hampton and Southampton both need to worry more about lawn mowers and leaf blowers year round, and stop listening to those obsessed by airport noise (because they bought 'affordable' housing nearby)--are they similarly complaining about noise from the LIRR trains? Oh, wait, there are hardly any trains...
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Mar 14, 15 5:11 PM
Ironically the leader of the anti-airport movement and professional committee member, Kathleen Cunningham, previously went after the LIRR but couldn't get anyone to join her campaign. So she switched to the airport as her complaint du jour.
By localEH (427), East Hampton on Mar 14, 15 6:37 PM
The idea that business would suffer in any meaningful way by noise restrictions at the airport is absurd! The only downside is the inconvenience caused to a very few mega-rich people who use the airport. Everyone else will be spared the noise pollution. Those mega rich people will still come to the Hamptons. Where else are they going to have a beach house in close enough proximity to NYC??????? The Jersey shore? And if a few mega-rich people decided to leave the Hamptons, we have more than enough ...more
By CommonCents (3), Sag Harbor on Mar 15, 15 1:02 AM
If the "surf school" was required to adhere to it's permit and not ILLEGALLY give lessons on the weekend, there would be a lot more parking at Road G !! There permit allows a limited number of students and instructors Monday through Friday ending at noon with NO PRIVATE INSTRUCTION OR LESSONS after that and on weekends. A homeowner has allowed them to set up shop on her property and run 7 days a week until 5 PM.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 15, 15 8:20 AM