Sanitizing House Lots

This evening’s hearing, at 7 in Town Hall, will sample public opinion on the narrow question of a gap in the town code regarding work vehicles

    Springs has become the focus of a debate about commercial vehicles parked on house lots, but the issue, which the East Hampton Town Board will take up in passing tonight, is far more wide-ranging than how large a dump truck (or two) can be left under one’s bedroom windows overnight.

    This evening’s hearing, at 7 in Town Hall, will sample public opinion on the narrow question of a gap in the town code regarding work vehicles. Some residents have objected to a proposal to allow two trucks of up to 14,000 pounds gross vehicle weight each to be left on residential property.

    These Class-3 trucks are considered “light duty” by federal regulators and typically include dump bodies and delivery vehicles. No special license is required to drive them. However, they are well above the weight limits set in some municipalities for residential roads. For that reason, allowing two of them on house lots seems overly generous.

    Conversely, a related move, banning the parking of commercially registered vehicles of any weight on town roadways in residential areas between midnight and 6 a.m. goes too far. An unintended consequence might be to legislate out of existence those commercial fishermen who are dependent on keeping boats, trailers, and gear at home. As proposed, many other residents with commercial license plates on their day-to-day pickups could find themselves ticketed.

    In place of the two-truck resolution, the town should limit the allowable vehicles left on private property to those of no more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight — Class 2 — and likewise ban on-street parking in residential zones only of vehicles of that weight or more. The gross weight limit should also apply to recreational vehicles. It would be unfair if, for example, someone could store a heavier camper at home, but a neighbor with a similarly hefty work truck were forced to find somewhere else to leave it.

    Vehicles, however, are not the real issue; the commercial use of residential property is. This larger issue — the for-profit use of house lots for a whole range of businesses — is one the board does not appear to want to touch. One or two trucks parked somewhere overnight does not a crisis make; properties turned into staging areas for landscapers and builders can be a genuine problem for neighbors. Then, too, the board should also consider more closely the widespread enlarging of businesses such as restaurants and bars that predate zoning bans on them near houses. These are far more quality-of-life threats.