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Mar 19, 2019 12:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Village Seeks To Muffle Landscaping Noise

Landscapers were trimming branches of a tree in East Hampton Village on Tuesday morning. ELIZABETH VESPE
Mar 19, 2019 3:25 PM

Waking up on a Sunday morning to a half dozen landscapers using loud, gas-powered leaf blowers is probably not the ideal situation for most.

The East Hampton Village Board has been discussing limiting hours for landscapers during the daytime, and prohibiting gas-powered leaf blowers, in addition to requiring professional landscapers to register annually with the village for a fee.

At a Friday Village Board meeting, the board agreed that the operation of gas-powered leaf blowers and other loud landscaping machines has created a quality-of-life issue in the village.

A draft law, which Rebecca Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, described at the meeting, would prohibit landscapers from working before 8 a.m. or later than 6 p.m. on any weekday, and before 8 a.m. or later than 3 p.m. on Saturdays—with landscaping work prohibited completely on Sundays and federal and state holidays.

The law would also prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 until Labor Day except by golf club and municipal employees performing their regular duties—provided that no leaf-blowers are used within 100 feet of the nearest residence.

Gas-powered leaf blowers could be used after Labor Day until May 31 but no earlier than 8 a.m. and no later than 6 p.m. on any weekday, and no earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Using leaf blowers would be prohibited on Sundays.

Walk-behind gas-powered leaf blowers would be prohibited unless the property being cleared is larger than a half acre, and no more than two handheld or backpack gas-powered leaf blowers could be used at a time.

“Property maintenance and landscaping work” refers to employees or independent contractors who are paid for their landscaping. The law states that gas-powered leaf blowers would be allowed for emergency cleanups following major storms.

Violators could face fines up to $1,000.

Landscapers would also be required to submit an annual registration form provided by the village and pay a fee of $200, in addition to a fee of $10 per sticker for each registered landscaping vehicle.

Ms. Hansen explained that the East Hampton Village draft legislation is similar to a proposed law in Southampton Village, which hasn’t been approved and has been tabled for two weeks.

Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. explained that two East Hampton Village Board members, Richard Lawler and Barbara Borsack, have been reaching out to landscapers and the community for their thoughts on the matter.

Over the past few months, Mr. Lawler said, board members have met with local landscapers, residents and Nassau and Suffolk County landscaping association members.

“I’m proud of the work we have done as a board,” he said. “We’re trying to make this resolution something that is acceptable to everyone.”

Ms. Borsack said that she attended a public hearing in Southampton Village on Thursday, March 14, to hear additional concerns from landscapers. She said she heard landscapers’ concerns “loud and clear.”

“We felt it was a good idea to try and mimic the Southampton Village law,” she said.

Ms. Borsack explained that the board plans to make it easier for landscapers by adopting similar hours to those in Southampton Village.

“We’re really talking about the noise,” she said.

The East Hampton Garden Club and Ladies Village Improvement Society often landscape their own property, Ms. Borsack explained, adding that the law should be more specific to allow them to continue to do so.

“Maybe there’s a way to say landscaping work that involves noise … or landscaping work that involves machinery. Noise is the issue.”

However, Linda Riley the village attorney, explained that the law applies only to employees and those paid for their work, not volunteers or groups such as the LVIS or the garden club.

“It’s only applicable to employees, not garden clubs,” she explained. “We don’t mean homeowners weeding their garden.”

“A man’s home is his castle,” Mr. Rickenbach said, adding that any homeowner should be allowed to work on their own personal, private plot of land and that the law is concerned with commercial and professional landscaping.

Mr. Lawler added that he thought time limits should be set on the Sundays instead of completely prohibiting landscaping work—for example, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Chief [Michael] Tracey said at a previous meeting that there haven’t been too many complaints,” Rose Brown, a board member, said. “I don’t want to make it too restrictive, but we need some parameters for homeowners.”

She explained that during the summer months, a homeowner may landscape when it is still light out at 8 p.m.

Bill Fox, owner of Bill Fox Grounds Maintenance, explained that equipment manufacturers will eventually start getting the idea that landscapers will have to shift to battery-powered machines, which are much quieter than gas-powered blowers.

“We’re going in the right direction,” he told the board.

Mr. Fox said he and his employees will be attending an electric equipment demonstration and learning seminar in Southampton.

Mr. Fox, who’s also attended Southampton Village public hearings and discussions, said that he thought the East Hampton draft was “more sensitive to the landscaper community” than the Southampton Village draft.

“Maybe it’s best for us to take a wait-and-see attitude. Let’s learn from what happens post-Labor Day. If it needs addressing from the board, we can certainly do it at that time,” he said.

“Let’s move ahead with baby steps in a forward direction and codify what will be subject to a public hearing,” the mayor said.

The law is still under discussion, and will formally be scheduled for a public hearing at a May Village Board meeting.

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Maybe we should bring back the helicopters to drown out the landscapers?
By Pacman (253), Southampton on Mar 20, 19 2:51 PM
1 member liked this comment
Why the special treatment for the wealthy resident's playgrounds? Will these exemptions stand up in court when the inevitable discrimination cases end up in court? How about the construction industry? Compressors, power tools, power washers all make noise. How about on demand generators attached to almost every decent sized home in both Villages? Pollution and noise there too.
By bigfresh (4384), north sea on Mar 20, 19 3:15 PM
This is the same discrimination Southampton Village is proposing and it’s absurd. It would be rather interesting to know how many complaints have come in from year round residents versus summer residents in both villages.
By toes in the water (847), southampton on Mar 20, 19 5:20 PM
Pandering to the Southampton Association and other heavy doners perhaps?
By bigfresh (4384), north sea on Mar 20, 19 5:56 PM
I can see the Sunday limitation as reasonable but no gas blowers get real will ya! When your bills double to maybe get the same job done, we don't want to hear about it. I suspect its not the rich complaining but the same old jealous Riffraff
By joe hampton (3353), The Hamptons on Mar 20, 19 10:51 PM
Blowers are VERY overrated. Yes they move a lot of leaves but not very accurately. Rakes move a lot of leaves and can be operated with precision. And rakes are effective without destroying the hearing of the operators. How often do you see the workers using hearing protection when operating the blowers? How often are the workers using the blowers overweight? RAKES ARE BETTER for the operators, the neighbors, and the environment.
By InnerBay (63), Southampton on Mar 21, 19 7:58 AM
So the estate owners push politicians to send the incessant chopper noise to the North Fork, Southampton and pretty much any area with less money and now they're hearing the leaf blowers a bit more clearly.

Noise is for the little people...
By eastend11957 (8), Jersey City on Mar 21, 19 12:41 PM
Incessant?? How many helicopters have you heard in East Hampton today? How many did you hear yesterday? How many have you heard in the past week? Month? Three months? Yes, helicopter noise is absolutely a problem in some areas on a handful of Fridays and Sundays in the summer. But shamefully exaggerating it by using the term incessant comes across as hysterics. But then again maybe the fact that you’re in Jersey City and not East Hampton has something to do with it.
By localEH (402), East Hampton on Mar 21, 19 2:29 PM
I'd say for anyone living within a couple miles of the ERHC routes the noise is absolutely incessant during the high season. How long do you think choppers would be permitted at HTO if the flight path was logical and routed them over Georgica Pond and the estate section?
By eastend11957 (8), Jersey City on Mar 21, 19 3:57 PM
Once again. Weed out the non-licensed cash “companies” by enforcing town licensing instead of just collecting a licensing fee. Let the tax paying professionals do their jobs.
By Lets go mets (359), Southampton on Mar 21, 19 6:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
I did`nt hear any back pack blowers yesterday or in the past week. But now that spring has sprung the landscapers will soon start spring clean-ups and those engines will roar non stop, As with helicopters just yesterday I had helicopters come over my community as did Wednesday and almost every day during the winter (not many) but they will come strong every day soon especially on Thursday,Friday Saturday Sunday and even Monday mornings. They will make life miserable for all below in all 4 towns ...more
By shredman (10), Northville on Mar 22, 19 9:01 AM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser