clubhouse, east hampton, indoor, tennis, cornhole, bar, happy hour, bowling, mini golf

Story - News

Apr 23, 2014 10:23 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Considers Fines For Leaf Piles On Right-Of-Ways

Apr 23, 2014 11:09 AM

Southampton Town is considering an amendment to the town code that would fine residents who leave leaves, brush and other debris within the public’s right of way.

The amendment to the town’s property maintenance law was aired at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting, where board members, residents and Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said that heaps of dead leaves, especially on the roadway, have caused problems.

This year, those who violate the code will get a notice of violation at first.

Starting in 2015, a notice would be followed up with code enforcement officers and then, if compliance is not met, the perpetrator would be given a written violation.

A first offense fine could be up to $1,000, 15 days in jail, or both, and a second offense could earn a fine of anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000, six months in jail, or both.

Town Councilman Brad Bender, who introduced the amendment, said there would also be a surcharge of $100. He said last year, the Town Board introduced a program in which such fines go into a “blight mitigation fund” so that the town can “clean up other things,” and “we’re paying with fine money instead of taxpayer money.”

Mr. Bender said the proposed amendment stemmed from complaints he received since he taking office. They began in 2009 and 2010, when Mr. Gregor enacted the town leaf pickup program, in which residents put their leaves in biodegradable paper bags to be picked up by town highway workers.

Mr. Bender said the town has saved $5.3 million since switching from a loose leaf pickup, and that the program costs the town only $434,000 each year to carry out—a difference from $1.5 million in 2009 when it started.

Mr. Gregor said the percentage of compliance has gone up to about 90 percent, but that some landscapers are still dumping leaves and debris, causing problems with snowplowing and getting children onto school buses safely. He said dumped leaves have also clogged roadways, especially in the Noyac and Pine Neck areas.

“Code enforcement had nothing it could actually use as a tool to protect the safety of schoolchildren, keep the storm drains from getting clogged, the leaves from around fire hydrants and slipping, sliding vehicles,” he said. “All of the issues were there, but there was no way to bring people into compliance.”

He said the law will also apply to other junk and debris left on the public’s right of way.

Mr. Gregor said in 2012, there were 121 cases of reported illegal dumping, from construction debris to refrigerators and junk. In 2013, the town had 110 cases of illegal dumping.

He added that in 2012 there were 10 evictions they had to clean up, like a 71-foot trailer someone left on side of the road.

Quiogue resident George Lynch said when he looks on his street, it’s apparent that there is a need for fines.

“People on my street are not stupid, and the cleanup rules aren’t all that difficult,” Mr. Lynch said about mounds of leaves left on his road. “Much of the confusion is willful or negligent. People just choose not to understand or bother to understand [the program]. Nothing clears up confusion like the prospect of paying a fine.”

The Town Board voted to keep the proposal open for written comment for 10 days.

Town Won’t Use Fracking Waste

Southampton Town will not accept wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

The mining process, which uses pressurized liquid—typically water mixed with sand and chemicals—to fracture shale and extract natural gas, is a controversial practice that is said to pollute the environment. Some of the chemicals found in the wastewater created by “fracking” could be radioactive, town officials said, and the state now allows the use of the wastewater to be used as de-icer for roads since it contains brine. That runoff could be detrimental to the health of the East End’s waters.

On Tuesday, the board voted to prohibit the purchase or acceptance of waste associated with natural gas extraction because of the potentially toxic nature of such material.

The move was applauded by Southampton residents and environmentalists.

“The industry is absolutely desperate to get rid of it,” said Remsenburg resident Marge Schab. “We cannot afford to have our water infringed. It would put the town at such risk by accepting this environmental waste. It’s their problem. I don’t want to make it our problem.”

Mr. Lynch again voiced his support. He said even though someone might be sympathetic to the idea of fracking, they certainly wouldn’t be receptive to taking waste from someone else’s industrial process.

“The Town Highway Department has never used it and does not contemplate doing so, but we may not always have the enlightened leadership we have now,” he said. “A local law is a good idea.”

Mr. Gregor said the Highway Department hasn’t used wastewater and has been trying to reduce the amount of saltwater it uses on roads for snow removal.

“We use sand as well to reduce the impact of salt on the bay,” he said. “We use one bucket of salt to three buckets of sand.”

He warned the town, however, that even though the town hasn’t been approached by fracking companies that want to dump wastewater, it could happen in the future.

“Bridges separate us from rest of world. It’s never profitable to send the liquid here,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll see it here, but you shouldn’t let your guard down.”

Town Ups Protection

The Town Board is also considering a law that would require certain offenders to pay a water quality protection surcharge.

Those who are found guilty of harming Southampton’s beaches, parks and waterways would have to pay not only a fine of $500 to $1,000, but also a $100 surcharge that would be put toward the town’s Water Quality Protection Fund.

Subsequent offenses would not be subject to the surcharge.

The Town Board will have another public hearing on a proposal to increase fines for damage done to the aquifer protection overlay district and to add a surcharge will also be up for debate.

A first offense would be punishable with up to $12,000 or 15 days in jail, or both, and a $100 surcharge. A second offense within an 18-month period would warrant a fine between $10,000 and $20,000 and or one year in jail, or both.

The public hearings will take place on May 13 at 1 p.m. at Town Hall.

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

By nellie (451), sag harbor on Apr 23, 14 11:36 AM
1 member liked this comment
Alex Gregor is the only person to blame for the leaf problem due to the arbitrary and inconsistent way the program was formulated and applied, In the first year of "his" program he was the first to break it by telling his staff to pick up everything regardless. (After many people had spent time and money to be in compliance or otherwise paid a private carter to take their leaves.) The second year, Mr. Gregor used the pretext of Hurricane Sandy clean-up and told us to put all our leaves and waste ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 23, 14 4:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
Question: Aren't the town Highway Dept. workers already on the payroll? Are there overtime costs associated with the pick up? If not where does the "extra" cost come from?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 23, 14 4:53 PM
Since you don't pick up my leaves anymore can I have some of my tax money back?
By Sandflea (35), Southampton on Apr 23, 14 4:55 PM
less services and another form of tax.
By politcal pawn (121), Flanders on Apr 23, 14 5:00 PM
Stop finding ways to fine the good citizens. You fine the taxpayers enough.
By rvs (106), sag harbor on Apr 23, 14 6:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think the way it's being done now is great!!! I don't have to look at my neighbors leaf pile for 6 months while all there leaves blow on my lawn. Thank you mr.gregor
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Apr 23, 14 7:04 PM
Leaves fall on private property. Property owners move those leaves into the public roadways creating nuisance, safety hazards and snow removal problems. Why are we only now considering fining people for such activities and why would anyone think public funds should be spent to correct the situation?
By VOS (1241), WHB on Apr 24, 14 1:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
"A first offense fine could be up to $1,000, 15 days in jail, or both, and a second offense could earn a fine of anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000, six months in jail, or both."

Clearly our democracy is working well . . .

15 days in jail for a first offense?

Are we in Kansas yet, Toto?
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Apr 24, 14 6:32 AM
Make up your mind Alex Gregor...you change the rules every year!!! What are our tax dollars paying for??
By AnonymousSgh (183), Sag Harbor on Apr 24, 14 7:25 AM
I agree with GoldenBoy. It is very inconsiderate to rake your leaves into the street. I am fed up with my neighbors who think it is ok to have their leaves just blow down the street. Is it really asking a lot to put them in paper bags? Stop whining and being so lazy. Keep up the good work Mr. Gregor.
By rightwing (18), East Quogue on Apr 26, 14 10:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Actually, It is a lot to ask taxpayers and residents to bag their leaves. Especially in the forested parts of the town. The process for picking up the leaves is the same regardless of whether they are bagged or not. The only reason that people rake them into the street is because traditionally that is where the town wanted residents to place them there for the pick up. The problem only started with Alex Gregor and the confusion he has created with his on again off again policies. It usually takes ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 26, 14 5:24 PM
Welll . . . I dunno about that. There's a bottom line here, and it's this: Alex Gregor won re-election last year with almost 62% of the vote, the largest margin of victory in any contested election in Southampton. For all the complaints you cite, it sounds like a lot of people are happy with the job he's done.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Apr 28, 14 10:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
You have a point. However, is that due to just support for him or for the fact that the Republicans ran a weak candidate( with a bad record at code enforcement until the town started using its attorneys to back him)?
Even though I may be more outspoken than others on this. The reason that they are calling for fines is that many people did leave their leaves out in the right of ways, this year. Next year, I suspect that many more people will bag their leaves because of the law perhaps or because ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 28, 14 10:46 AM
Oops...Forgot to say, Mr. TB, I believe the proposed law impacts your base more than anyone. So be careful what you wish for...If I am right.
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 28, 14 10:50 AM
It's true that Mr. Gregor did not face overwhelming opposition. That factor is subjective, however, and can't be quantified. The election results by contrast, are objective, numerical and indisputable.

As for what you're calling my base, I'd say those folks are willing to pay their fair share, unlike some on the other side, such as Welfare Cowboy Cliven Bundy, the High Plains Freeloader, and his supporters.
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Apr 29, 14 9:48 AM
I think we have all been paying our fair share. What we are disputing here is the unfair way this policy was put into place without community input. The town eliminated the service, continued to collect the tax and left the residents with more expensive options to dispose of their leaves. Now they want to impose draconian fines. Unfortunately, these measures overall have a negative financial impact on the people that can least afford it. That hardly seems fair to me. As would think that as "Democrat" ...more
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Apr 29, 14 10:36 AM
When I spoke of what you call my base, I wasn't thinking of the high end, as you seem to imply. The high end just hires a landscaper/carter and that's it. I was thinking of the ordinary people who use the leaf pickup program, and who in my experience are far more willing to pay their fair share than they get credit for. That they consider it no more than their fair share is demonstrated by the election results.

"Draconian fines"? Are you serious? It's first a warning, and then a fine ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Apr 29, 14 4:31 PM
Still would like to know how much , if any, overtime is associated with the leaf pick up program. It seems that the Highway Department workers are being paid for a 40 hour week and for a month or so pick up leaves. Without OT there should be no additional labor costs. How can McGregor claim that there is an additional cost to the Department?!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 30, 14 8:29 AM