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Court Blocks Airport Limits in East Hampton

MANHATTAN (CN) — Slapped with a reversal by the Second Circuit, East Hampton residents will have to put up with din from the local airport during the summer months as tourists quadruple the ritzy Long Island community's population.

Though not a commercial airport, East Hampton Airport on the south shore of Long Island is a general-aviation facility that serves private and chartered helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

Hoping to preserve the bucolic nature of the community, town officials adopted three restrictions on the airport in April 2015. In addition to a mandatory curfew of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. on all aircraft traffic, the rules barred "noisy" aircraft from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m., and placed a weekly one-round-trip limit on noisy aircraft.

Enactment of the laws prompted a federal lawsuit, but Friends of East Hampton Airport succeeded only in enjoining the one-round-trip limit.

Ruling out of Central Islip in June 2015, U.S. District Judge declined to give the challengers an injunction against the curfew laws.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit found that all three laws should be blocked as federally pre-empted.

Writing from the courthouse in Manhattan, U.S. Circuit Judge Reena Raggi said Congress intended to set national noise levels when it wrote the Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990.

"We express no view as to the wisdom of the local laws at issue," Raggi wrote. "We conclude only that federal law mandates that such laws be enacted."

East Hampton, which has been trying to limit airport noise for the past decade, argued that it should be allowed to set its own rules, since it doesn't plan to accept any federal funds. But Raggi said disavowal of future federal funding doesn't insulate the town from the ANCA.

"Congress promulgated the ANCA based on findings that 'community noise concerns have led to uncoordinated and inconsistent restrictions on aviation that could impede the national air transportation system' and, therefore, noise policy must be carried out at the national level,'" Raggi wrote.

The town of East Hampton expressed its disappointment with the decision in a statement.

"Although today's court decision places the solution to the aviation noise problem firmly at the feet of Congress and the FAA, the Town will continue to explore every available option so that the residents of the East End won't continue to be inflicted by an unrelenting din from the skies above," the statement reads.

The case was remanded back to District Court for further proceedings.

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