East Hampton's seasonal airport control tower.

East Hampton's seasonal airport control tower. Credit: Handout

A plan to adopt a five-year list of capital improvements for the town-owned East Hampton Airport was withdrawn at a town board meeting, after a packed crowd spent nearly two hours debating the plan.

Attendees alternately argued that such a plan was badly needed or that it was unnecessary, would lead to airport expansion and more noise.

Councilman Dominick Stanzione withdrew the resolution to adopt the comprehensive plan after questions arose about whether a proper environmental review had been made of each proposed project.

"I want to hold off until our next work session to give our attorney time to review it," he said.

Thursday night's public hearing resembled others in the past two years in a town where airport noise complaints are steadily increasing and well-organized airport supporters complain about deteriorating runways, inadequate lighting and threats to safety from deer on the runways.

Michael Norbeck, manager of Sound Aircraft Services, told of how he recently was out chasing deer off the runways when he drove into a runway light that was not properly working.

"Everything on that [improvement] list is a priority, and it has to be done quickly," he said.

But Joan Osborne, of East Hampton Village, said nothing should be done until the airport comes up with a business plan that would free it from federal subsidies and regulations. "The airport should be totally self-sustaining," she said.

The crowd -- and the town board -- seemed evenly split between the two camps.

Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said the plan -- which listed $10.5 million in future improvements and upgrades through 2018 -- was simply a list, and that every project would be subject to a public hearing and town board vote.

She said it was "a living document" that could be changed.

But Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc argued that a copy of the plan would be sent to the Federal Aviation Administration, and that it could lead to a future town board seeking federal money for airport work, and subjecting the airport to federal regulations such as taking away local control of times the airport could be used.

"This is the first next step in applying for FAA funds," he said.

The plan was drawn up by DY Consultants of Garden City, the town's airport advisers. It recommends converting an existing taxiway into a runway and changing one of the two working runways into a taxiway.

It also lists previous airport improvements and when they were completed, dating to 1983. The consultants said many of them were past their usefulness, noting some pavement areas have not be rehabilitated in 30 years.

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