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Winery tours prompt Southold to revisit code on helicopters

The town board is having legislation drafted to add stronger language explicitly prohibiting aircraft from landing in farm fields and agricultural zones.

Southold Town Hall in Southold on July 12,

Southold Town Hall in Southold on July 12, 2017. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

Southold officials could adopt code changes this summer on helicopter use to address residents’ complaints about passenger helicopters and other aircraft landing in farm fields and agricultural zones for winery tours.

Officials began discussing code changes last fall after residents complained about the wine tour landings and a potential increase in chopper noise as a result.

Though such landings are not allowed under town code, Councilman Robert Ghosio, who has been working on the proposed legislation, said officials felt a need to include stronger language to explicitly prohibit the landings.

“[Those landings] are not something that we want and something that’s not allowed to begin with,” Ghosio said. “It’s not necessarily new, but it’s just clarifying what already exists and setting up the exceptions that are already doing business in town and are doing agricultural work.”

Ghosio was referring to provisions in the code that would allow for aircraft used for crop-dusting purposes to land in agricultural zones.

Town Attorney William Duffy is working on finalizing the code’s draft and is expected to present it to the Town Board at its July 3 work session. Officials said a public hearing on the changes could be held by July 31 or in early August. If there are no objections, the board could approve the code changes the same evening of the public hearing, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said Friday.

Russell said the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, a nonprofit representing helicopter interests in the Northeast, has been silent on the issue.

“We haven’t included them in the discussion,” Russell said. “They’re certainly welcome to participate, but I really don’t think they’d bring much to the conversation.”

Representatives of the helicopter council did not respond to requests for comment.

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