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Meeting set with representative of helicopter council; town may further restrict aircraft

A representative of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council has agreed to take part in a public meeting with Riverhead residents, according to Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith.

The meeting with Jeff Smith, vice president of that group, will take place Tuesday, Oct. 1, at Riverhead Town Hall beginning at 7 p.m. Town officials say ERHC is instrumental in determining flight paths over the East End. [The time was pushed back an hour to 7 p.m. to accommodate those celebrating Rosh Hashanah, officials said Friday.]

The subject of helicopter noise over Riverhead and Southold towns has been a hot topic in recent years, as helicopters heading to South Fork destinations like East Hampton often cut across areas like Northville and Mattituck rather than flying around the island over water, as required by a 2012 Federal Aviation Administration mandate.

That mandate, however, allowed for some loopholes — allowing them to fly over the land when transitioning to or from their destination, for example — that ultimately enabled almost all of the helicopters to fly over homes.

“Do we have a bulletproof cubicle?” Councilman Tim Hubbard joked.

“I’m glad we have made a little bit of progress,” Ms. Jens-Smith said.

“I agree,” Mr. Hubbard replied. “It’s movement and they wouldn’t do that in the past.”

Meanwhile, the Town Board has also scheduled a public hearing on a set of new restrictions for helicopters, seaplanes and amphibious aircraft.

The proposal would prohibit those vehicles from landing on or taking off from any waters, beaches or land within the town, unless they have prior approval from the town.

The prohibition would not apply to town-owned airfields or to medical, military or police emergency landings. Aircraft involved in public health and safety, or in agriculture, also would be exempt.

The fines for violations would be $1,000 for a first offense and $2,000 for each subsequent offense.

The public hearing is set for Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. during the Town Board meeting.

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