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East Hampton officials ask Supreme Court to review airport noise case

Sign of the East Hampton Town Airport on

Sign of the East Hampton Town Airport on Daniels Hole Rd. in Wainscott, Nov. 16, 2016. Credit: Gordon M. Grant

East Hampton Town officials are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a lower federal court decision that struck down its airport curfew laws and to give the town control of the airport where noise complaints rise in the summer.

Town officials said they filed a petition with the nation’s highest court on Monday in an effort to reinstate laws that restricted late-night and early-morning flights — and thus reduce noise — at East Hampton Airport in Wainscott.

“We have fought long and hard to protect our quality of life and it is too important to let the court of appeals undermine that,” Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez said in a statement Monday.

Town officials had vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court after the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 4 to throw out laws that prohibited all flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and noisy aircraft flights between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m.

In a 3-0 opinion, the appeals court panel determined town officials failed to comply with procedures under the federal Airport Noise and Capacity Act, which requires aircraft operators to have a chance to be heard.

Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell disputed the appeals court finding, saying the town “engaged in a lengthy public process to identify meaningful but reasonable restrictions.”

“With the stroke of a pen, the appeals court decision has federalized our airport and stripped us — and the thousands of similarly situated airports — of the ability to exert local control,” Cantwell said in a statement issued Monday. “We cannot let that decision stand.”

The town board in April 2015 adopted three curfew laws, including one that restricted noisy aircraft from flying more than one trip per week between May and September. It also stopped accepting federal funding for the airport in order to retain control over operations, Cantwell said.

A group of helicopter pilots, aviation businesses and their allies sued the town on April 21, 2015, arguing the curfew rules were illegal.

U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert in the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip upheld the two curfew laws that prohibited late-night and early-morning flights but struck down the third that limited the number of flights. The coalition that initially sued the town filed an appeal.

After the appeals court ruling, town officials refunded about $10,000 collected in curfew-violation fines.

The Supreme Court agrees to review only about 100 to 150 cases of 7,000 petitioned every year, according to the U.S. Courts website.


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