New Tack on Airport Noise Control

With a vote at a board meeting tonight, East Hampton Town officials plan to hire a law firm that successfully represented the city of Santa Monica, Calif., in a fight to gain local control over its airport to advise the town as it pursues Federal Aviation Administration approval of restrictions on the use of East Hampton Airport in order to control noise.

Morrison Foerster “has unique experience and expertise in advising publicly owned airports on protecting residents from aircraft noise, garnered over decades of devising and defending a variety of such noise mitigation measures,” according to the board resolution.

The town’s position has been that it holds legal authority to enact local airport use restrictions, such as an overnight curfew, without asking for the F.A.A.’s okay.

But three local laws adopted by East Hampton in 2015 that restricted takeoffs and landings at the airport were struck down by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals last fall in a judgment on a lawsuit filed by aviation interests. The town has filed a petition for a Supreme Court ruling on that matter and is waiting to hear whether the case will be reviewed.

In the meantime, officials intend to begin following the procedures outlined by the F.A.A. to apply for the federal agency’s approval.

According to a resolution to be offered by Councilwoman Kathee Burke-Gonzalez tonight, “the town wishes to exhaust all options to protect residents from excessive aircraft noise, including pursuing a noise control ordinance through the F.A.A. Part 161 process under the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990.”

Over several seasons, consultants for the town have been collecting and collating the data on East Hampton Airport flights and noise complaints that will be needed for submission to the F.A.A.

Like East Hampton, Santa Monica has a long history of airport-related litigation and community complaints over aircraft noise. Represented by Morrison Foerster, the city came to an agreement early this year with the F.A.A. that allows it to close its airport after 2028. The agreement also recognizes Santa Monica’s authority to make decisions over land use, allowing it to shorten its airport runway in the interim.

According to the resolution that the board is expected to approve tonight, legal fees of up to $50,000 will be paid to Morrison Foerster from the airport budget account.