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Jun 25, 2019 3:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Hampton Village Hears Blowback From Landscapers

East Hampton Village plans to outlaw the use of gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months. ELIZABETH VESPE
Jun 25, 2019 5:01 PM

The East Hampton Village Board plans to limit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers to begin to address an ongoing “quality-of-life issue,” as Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. described it at a Village Board meeting on Friday.

For several months, the board, with members Richard Lawler and Barbara Borsack spearheading the effort, has been discussing limiting hours and seasonally prohibiting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, in addition to requiring professional landscapers to register annually for a fee.

The use of gas-powered leaf blowers would be prohibited from June 1 until Labor Day, except at golf clubs such as the Maidstone Club, a private country club that encompasses about 200 acres of open land.

Although gas-powered leaf blowers will be banned during the summer months for residents and landscapers, they could be used again after Labor Day, until May 31, but no earlier than 8 a.m. and no later than 6 p.m. on any weekday; no earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 3 p.m. on Saturdays; and only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday or any federal holiday.

If the law is adopted, 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.

At Friday’s public hearings—one on the permit registration and fees, and one on outlawing gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months—Jim LaGarenne of Richard Sperber Landscaping explained that the Town of East Hampton currently has a contractor’s license requirement, but many contractors traveling to East Hampton from up-island, and even some locally, have never purchased the license.

“There is no enforcement,” Mr. LaGarenne said, comparing it to the possible landscape permitting regulations in the village. “Why even get the license?” he asked the board. He said the village should enforce the regulation of permits with a substantial fine for violators, adding that, without enforcement, “it means nothing.”

“I don’t want to put a burden on the police department, but someone needs to make sure that the people are getting the licenses,” he said.

Mr. Rickenbach added that police and code enforcement officers will strenuously enforce the new leaf blower and landscaper permit legislation.

Board member Arthur Graham added that there is a substantial fine if operating without a permit, or disobeying the new law—as high as $2,500 to $5,000 for a third offense.

A previous version of the law made it so repeat offenders could serve 15 days in jail, but the board thought that was too severe and removed that portion of the legislation.

Regarding the leaf blower legislation, Mr. LaGarenne said he and the company he works for seriously oppose the proposed law at this time. He said although they appreciate that the board is trying to limit noise, it seems arbitrary and premature. He added that there are other types of contractors and landscaping tools that create a similar amount of noise.

“To pick out a leaf blower at this time seems to be very arbitrary,” Mr. LaGarenne said, noting that golf courses would be exempt. “It should pertain to everybody, not just the landscapers and commercial landscaping.”

Mr. LaGarenne explained that he’s tried electric-powered equipment, and said that, after laying out almost $10,000 for electric-powered leaf blowers and pruners, he found that the batteries last only about half an hour at a time, whereas his crews often go out for 10 to 12 hours a day.

Mr. LaGarenne also touched on the price point of the newer battery-powered landscaping equipment, explaining that smaller companies likely can’t afford to spend $10,000 to $20,000 just on small equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers.

“They just don’t work at this point,” he said of the battery-powered blowers. “To pick just the leaf blowers while contractors have little generators going and radios blasting at some sites, it seems arbitrary.”

On the other hand, Daniel Hays, an East Hampton Village resident, congratulated the board for codifying a proposed law to restrict the noise of leaf blowers, which he called “incredibly annoying.”

“I find that the leaf blower noise is particularly heavy during the week when the estates that have lawn services are being serviced,” he said. “For someone who lives 24/7 in this village, it’s a constant annoyance.”

Said John Cataletto, another East Hampton village resident: “We have three houses behind us that are constantly using leaf blowers. I know when they have to cut hedges—that’s another story—but it seems to me that the leaf blowers are such an invasion on the peacefulness of this village.”

Mr. Cataletto said that he understands during the fall and spring when leaf blowers are much needed, but said that, during the summer, leaves shouldn’t be as much of an issue.

“Maybe some hand-raking is okay,” he said. “The noise is a constant problem in the village.”

Bill Fox, owner of Bill Fox Grounds Maintenance, has been attending meetings about the new legislation for months. He said his customers have been responding well to his company’s use of quieter equipment and that he has had some success with the transition to electric-powered equipment he’s spent $15,000 on thus far.

“Come fall, you can’t really do the work without a little more assisting,” he said, however.

At the conclusion of the public hearing, Mr. Lawler said the law wasn’t something the board is going into lightly, adding that “not everyone is going to be happy.”

Mr. Graham said he empathized with the landscapers. “We realize we’re taking a productivity tool out of your hands, but the residents of the village have told us in no uncertain terms that this is a tool they want taken out for at least the summer.”

The board plans to further tweak the proposed legislation, and hold another public hearing, before adopting the law, which would go into effect on January 1, 2020.

“This is a quality-of-life issue for our residents, and that’s who we’re responsible for,” Mr. Rickenbach said. “You have to look at what’s best for the major portion of the constituents you represent.”

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I have never seen so many uppity people complain about the stupidest crap. Wahhh, leaf blowers are too loud. Sorry, I think there are way more important issues than forcing people to use battery leaf blowers, they are a great deal more of an inconvenience.
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Jun 26, 19 1:45 PM
How about requiring landscapers to park in the driveway of the home where they are working instead of block half the road with the trucks and trailers!?!
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Jun 26, 19 2:15 PM
Both southampton and easthampton towns & villages have issues with landscaping noise - it is constant barrage of noise - Maybe instead of limiting the equipment cut the number of days in the week where certain work can be done - and enforce it
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 26, 19 4:05 PM
And what are the landscapers supposed to do if it rains 3 days in a week.....Not cut peoples lawns? Than have twice the work load next week. Cant pay the bills if you cant work. You cant tell them when to do certain work when their livelihood is greatly affected by mother nature. Think about it !!

This area is NO longer the quiet gem is used to be .You cant change it back.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 27, 19 6:34 AM
1 member liked this comment
LOL - b/c it's no longer quiet we should never strive to become better?
Just b/c people have landscaping businesses doesnt mean it's good - if the businesses create a problem through noise people are going to want to remedy this.
I may explain this point by hanging out with some friends at Coopers Beach or Main Beach on a saturday w/friends - all with leaf blowers in tow, running all day. It's legal for us to run leaf blowers on the beach - but people will try to stop us.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Jun 27, 19 10:03 AM
pls do! The citiots and snobby day trippers will love you !
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 27, 19 5:28 PM
When you over build a place , you take away the quite. Its very simple. If you think you can make it better, well than start by stopping the unnecessary air traffic noise. Than you can stop all the extra cars making the trek out east an causing even more traffic......oh can you also do something about the trade parade while your at it. Its ruining the quality of life out here for us locals.

Landscaping IS good. Its created ALOT of jobs for the hardworking locals who put up with all the ...more
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 28, 19 7:12 AM
Oh, I will look for you at Coopers. Since the Piping Plovers have caused so many beach closures, many of us have to find alternatives. Lots of beach congestion coming .....
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Jun 28, 19 7:17 AM
Imagine if someone suggested that you could only work a limited amount of time per week during our very short season.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 27, 19 6:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hypocrisy Leaf blower noise is bad..Airport noise is good...Very logical.
By mr. met (7), Sagaponack on Jun 27, 19 11:32 AM
1 member liked this comment
All these regulations make more money for Day Laborers!!! Homeowners are exempt from this policy..So instead of paying more money to a registered/insured company who bought $15k of battery powered blowers...the homeowner will buy gas blowers and hire illegals at train station and get away with it...the only people effected are the real business owners of the Hamptons..,how can the local politicians and police allow illegals to Prostitute themselves for work at sevs & train station.,,makes sense
By Tommy11963 (9), Sag Harbor on Jul 1, 19 11:43 PM