Tempers flared on Monday night at the Springs Citizens Advisory Committee meeting, where contractors and retirees tried to sort out the East Hampton Town Board’s proposed truck law, which seeks to limit certain kinds of vehicles that can be parked in residential areas.
The meeting became contentious several times as worried contractors, standing in the back of Ashawagh Hall, where the meeting was held, said they would face major difficulties if their heavy-duty trucks were to be banned from driveways.
In contrast, older homeowners, many of them retirees, argued that the number of commercial trucks in neighborhoods is out of control.
“I have a dump truck, and I have twin daughters. I bought it when they were just born, to get them to school. I can’t park it on my property anymore. Can I hide it? Can I put it behind a fence?” said contractor John Pele, directing his comments to CAC member David Buda, who has been at the forefront of identifying residents who have large, commercial trucks parked on their properties, and has been urging the Town Board to take action on the matter. “You’re saying no, you don’t want nothing there,” Mr. Pele added.
Under the law that the Town Board had proposed this month, box trucks and dump trucks would not be allowed to be parked on private property at all. The measure calls for allowing only two commercially licensed light trucks per residential property. A light truck is defined as an unmodified pickup truck, regardless of gross weight, and any other commercial vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 12,000 pounds or less, provided that its rear bed or platform is no wider or taller than the vehicle’s cab.
The new legislation also defines a pickup truck as a light-duty truck that has an enclosed cab and an open, box-type cargo bed, with low sidewalls and a tailgate that doesn’t exceed 9 feet in length, 6 feet in width, and 25 inches in height. A cap over the truck’s bed, as long as it doesn’t overshadow the truck’s cab, would be allowed.
Contractor Chris Arnold said the proposed legislation is unfair as it would have a significant negative effect on many local small-business owners.
“I’m not a Bonacker, but I consider myself a local who assimilated into this community, and I help any way I can. For some reason, when I look at these two gentlemen over here, the term ‘carpetbagger’ comes to mind,” he said, referring to two men who spoke in favor of the proposed law. “It’s people coming into the community telling them how they should and shouldn’t live. We have people down here living on clams and fish, and they have trucks with wide, wooden beds so they can put their nets and fish in them, and they can do whatever they need to do to make a living out of those trucks.”
He added that if the proposed truck law or a similar one were to be enacted, the town would have to provide free parking, because the contractors and workers are already paying property taxes for where they currently park their trucks—which is at their homes.
Mr. Arnold was shouted down by some of the residents in attendance when he commented that he wouldn’t be permitted to park his two passenger trucks on his property if the truck law were to go into effect. However, those in favor of the law loudly protested that such trucks would be allowed to be parked on private property, because they are passenger trucks.
The 14-member CAC then had some difficulty restoring order. Some residents walked out of Ashawagh Hall in disgust, while others seemed to express disbelief at the chaos.
Town Councilman Fred Overton, Town Board liaison to the Springs CAC, said he would not support the current draft legislation, but he added that written comment on the proposed law would be accepted until August 6.
“After the [July 17 Town Board] hearing, there is no way I could endorse the legislation as it is written today,” he said, followed by applause from contractors in attendance. “I’m meeting with contractors for Thursday … to try to get a working group together eventually, to get both sides … and see if we can’t work something out. Something obviously has to be done. The whole community needs some relief in certain areas.”
CAC member Zachary Cohen tried to explain some of his ideas on compromises that could be made, but he was interrupted several times. When he was finally allowed to speak, he explained that his proposal would allow three categories of trucks in terms of sizes and would give contractors the ability to keep bigger trucks on their properties—if they were properly screened.
“You might end up with the same number of two trucks allowed, but one of the trucks allowed that is visible might be smaller than what is in the current law,” Mr. Cohen said. “The other truck might be able to be larger but might have to be parked like an accessory structure—30 feet from the road, 10 feet from the adjacent property—and predominantly screened.”
Contractors and workers at the meeting said they could support Mr. Cohen’s proposal.
The meeting room became calmer as contractor Patrick Brabant stepped up to act as a mediator between the two groups, asking that everyone work together.
One of the retirees in attendance, Dan Aharoni, agreed that the two sides can find common ground.
“This has been very antagonistic,” he said. “It shouldn’t be winner take all, and we’re not going to have a kumbaya moment either, but for all of us who bought our second home or retirement home here, the Bonackers didn’t come and move into our neighborhood, we moved into theirs. They’re saying, ‘Don’t cost us money and don’t force us out,’ but find a way to solve this annoyance problem so they don’t have to leave or pay for expensive solutions. Why don’t we form a committee, which includes people who are affected? It has to be a compromise.”... more