It appears that Southampton Town residents who have complained about being plagued by helicopter noise may be able to remove their ear plugs for a bit this season. Starting this weekend, East Hampton Town Airport Manager Jim Brundige will implement a third helicopter route, adding to two already in use. The three routes combined are designed to “share the pain” of helicopter noise across municipal boundaries on the East End.
The proposal was born out of a working group of lawmakers from neighboring towns and representatives from the Eastern Region Helicopter Council, a committee convened after helicopter traffic was rerouted last year over Southampton Town neighborhoods, causing an outcry among residents of Noyac, Sag Harbor, North Sea and Bridgehampton. Helicopter traffic was directed to fly over Jessup’s Neck and the power lines, versus the Northwest Creek route that had been used before.
The three routes in use this season will be the Jessup’s Neck route, the south shore route over Georgica Pond, and the “ECHO” route, which will be a variation of the Northwest route that will go over Barcelona Neck, said Mr. Brundige. Helicopters will be able to arrive on the Jessup’s Neck route, depart on the “ECHO” route and both arrive and depart via the South Shore route, officials said.
In addition, Mr. Brundige said he will aim to get helicopter pilots to fly at a higher altitude, from 2,500 to 3,000 feet.
“Perfect? No,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who made a surprise appearance at an East Hampton Town Board work session on Tuesday, apparently to ensure the deal would go through. “Better? Most certainly.”
The Town Board grudgingly gave the go-ahead to Mr. Brundige, who is responsible for implementing helicopter routes. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley supported the measure. Councilwoman Sylvia Overby said she was “conflicted,” but if she had to choose, she would lean on the side of adding the route. She said while she didn’t want to put noise over more East Hampton residents, it may finally bring to a head the issue of whether the town should accept Federal Aviation Administration funding, which anti-noise activists believe is key to solving the longtime issue of how to establish true local control over the airport.
Councilman Dominick Stanzione pointedly addressed Ms. Throne-Holst, saying he felt he had to “sacrifice” representing East Hampton. “I’m going to reluctantly not oppose what Jim’s working on,” he said.
Only Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, who lives in Northwest Woods, voiced strong opposition to the move. He said he was “extremely disappointed” with the Town Board’s consent. He said the additional route would essentially be a “helicopter superhighway over our most protected and most pristine parts of town.”
The new route will generate increased complaints from East Hampton residents, Ms. Overby warned.
“So how many lines do you have for noise complaints?” Ms. Overby asked.
Town Financials Looking Good
East Hampton Town’s financial standing is in good shape, based on reports from the final quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of this year, according to Budget Officer Len Bernard.
The town’s Community Preservation Fund is no longer owed any money from other funds at the end of 2012. “We have now paid back the CPF everything it’s owed, including interest,” Mr. Bernard said.
The town’s overall fund balances at the year’s end finished at about 22 percent, a stark contrast from the negative 30-percent level of fund balances in 2009. The town’s indebtedness decreased by about $7.3 million between 2011 and 2012. The town also got more mortgage tax revenue than it projected in 2012, finishing with $3,798,320 last year as compared to the projected $2,850,000. Town officials expect to see that trend continue this year.
The Community Preservation Fund had revenues of about $22.2 million in 2012, and spent about $13.5 million on acquisitions. Of the acres acquired, about half were in Springs. Springs purchases also accounted for about 42.5 percent of the revenues spent in 2012, and the largest number of acquisitions than any other hamlet—six.