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Study: East Hampton airport tower to have little environmental impact

Helicopters at East Hampton Town Airport Friday afternoon

Helicopters at East Hampton Town Airport Friday afternoon in Wainscott. (August 6, 2010) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

The new seasonal control tower which will go into operation this summer at East Hampton’s town-owned airport did not legally require a full environmental review. But the East Hampton Town board, saying the public interest demanded such a review, has accepted an in-house environmental study and officially declared last Thursday that the facility will have no significant impact.

The Federal Aviation Administration — which must authorize the tower and is proposing to change the airspace control status within a 4.8-mile radius of the airport — will be taking comments on that change until April 30.

Under state environmental law, installing the control tower — actually a trailer filled with electronic equipment — is a Type II action, which requires no environmental review because it is an accessory structure with less than 4,000 square feet of gross floor area.

But, with complaints over airport noise a major and ongoing source of complaints — some groups in town want to sharply restrict or close the airport while others strongly support it — the town board asked its planning department to review the tower as if it were not a Type II action.

The planning department report determined there would be no significant environmental impact from the control tower, and the town board — which already has hired a firm to operate the seasonal tower — voted last week to recognize it was a Type II action and had no adverse environmental impact, then formally approved its construction.

The town board also approved limited tree clearing to allow tower operators to see planes as they take off and land.

The cost of the tower will come from a special airport account, not from general taxes.

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