The Shoals says it’s reachable by seaplane, but Southold Town begs to differ

The opening of a new hotel that markets itself as reachable by car, boat or plane has prompted the Southold Town Aircraft Noise Steering Committee to ask the Town Board to review its code regarding seaplanes.

While seaplanes are banned in Southold waters, town officials have some concern that a loophole exists for planes to land in other parts of the Peconic Bay, with passengers then being taxied by boat to their destination. 

“[The code] prohibits the landings anywhere we have jurisdiction,” deputy town attorney John Burke said at a Town Board work session Tuesday. “But the areas where we have jurisdiction in the Peconic Bay kind of weave in and out and there could be a loophole.”

The issue was raised following articles about The Shoals in Northforker magazine and, both of which mentioned the hotel’s accessibility by seaplane, a feature prominently outlined in press materials the business released.

The Shoals also mentions this method of arrival on its website.

“Guests can arrive by train, seaplane, or boat — uniquely positioning the hotel as both a destination for guests and a social hub for locals,” the company’s website states.

Councilwoman Sarah Nappa, the Town Board liaison to the Aircraft Noise Steering Committee, asked if the town could send a letter to the hotel, asking them to no longer promote this feature. Mr. Burke said the town had already discussed it with them and they would no longer run advertisements promoting arrivals by plane.

In an email Tuesday, a spokesperson for The Shoals said the hotel does not offer any of its own transportation services and guests who arrive via seaplane must ensure they board and land in legal areas.

Mr. Burke said the town will have to “ward against” planes landing in other areas and guests being taxied in by boat. He said the town would first have to map out the bay to see which areas allow seaplanes to land or take off to get a better understanding of where they might be coming from.

Both Riverhead and East Hampton towns have banned seaplanes in local waters. Southampton has banned it in Mecox Bay, but does allow landings in town waters more than 1,000 feet from the shoreline. Shelter Island has no restrictions, so there are pockets of the bay in two towns where planes can land directly adjacent to Southold Town waters.

Potentially exacerbating the issue, Ms. Nappa noted, is the potential future closing of the East Hampton Town Airport, which could make seaplanes a more desirable method of travel to the East End, and the lack of monetary penalties for violating the portion of the town code regarding aircrafts.

“Do we want to maybe add some kind of fine structure?” Ms. Nappa asked of her fellow board members Tuesday.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the seaplane ban does at least prevent the aircraft themselves from being taxied directly to the shore.

“We do control the keys to that kingdom,” Mr. Russell said.

Southold Town’s Aircraft Noise Steering Committee was formed in 2014 to deal with quality of life concerns over aviation noise. The seaplane ban, which exempts military and emergency aircraft, was implemented in 2018.

The Shoals is owned by a group led by developer Jonathan Tibbett, who also owns the North Fork Table & Inn, Southold General and the upcoming Southold Social and The Enclaves, all in the hamlet of Southold.

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