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Southold won’t drink to copters landing in fields for wine tastings

Southold Town Hall in Southold on July 12,

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

Southold Town officials are considering amending the town code to address residents’ complaints about passenger helicopters and other aircraft landing in farm fields and agricultural zones for winery tours.

“We can’t have our wineries fly people in for tastings. That’s beyond the pale,” Town Councilman Robert Ghosio, the board’s liaison with the town’s Helicopter Noise Steering Committee, said Friday in an interview. “It’s bad enough that we can’t control them flying in around the South Fork, but at least we have some control about what happens on the North Fork.”

Officials are considering setting out specific provisions in the town code to bar aircraft, except those being used for crop-dusting purposes, from landing in agricultural zones. Board members said the addition of more specific language will help prevent helicopter noise from bothering residents.

“[Helicopters landing in agricultural zones] is the last thing we need out here,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. He added that town officials are planning to contact all wineries to let them know such landings are forbidden.

Teresa McCaskie, chairwoman of the helicopter steering committee and a Mattituck resident, welcomed the news.

“Residents do not want the noise or air pollution over our homes, beaches or farms,” McCaskie said in a statement, noting that many residents already deal with noise from the FAA-mandated North Shore helicopter route.

Town officials and residents are also concerned about the possibility of increased helicopter noise in Southold after the town was recently notified of a weekend trip being advertised by BLADE, an on-demand helicopter app, to Mattituck-based Shinn Estate Vineyards. The helicopter was to land at Mattituck Airport, which is privately owned, according to FAA records.

Paul Pawlowski, the airport owner, told the company they could not land there, according to town officials. Pawlowski did not return a call for comment.

Shinn Estate Vineyards representatives said Friday that the wine tour had been canceled after they heard about neighbors’ complaints and said, “We respect our neighbors.”

BLADE spokeswoman Caitlin Deering said in a statement Friday that the company does not offer regular service to the North Fork and that the partnership with the Mattituck vineyard “did not materialize due to tepid interest in flying to the North Fork on the part of our flyers.”

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