As a discussion heats up about what — if anything — should be done about commercial trucks parked in residential parts of town, greater focus is needed on the underlying question: whether a house lot has become a place of business.
Aesthetic concerns about trucks and other equipment are less important than whether the use of a property is in violation of the town code. From a regulatory point of view, this may be considerably more difficult than banning vehicles based on weight or other physical criteria. However, parking trucks and storing gear necessary for making a living is a longstanding tradition in East Hampton Town, and officials should move with extreme caution on legislative changes that might hurt small, owner-operated concerns.
During a hearing earlier this month in Town Hall, the owners of a number of small businesses urged the town board to take on the number of vehicles that should be permitted overnight in residential areas, but they also asked that no restrictions be imposed on the types of trucks. This is a reasonable suggestion; it protects the interest of small operations but discourages fleet parking that can turn the yard next door into an industrial zone.
On the other side of the coin, however, business owners must work to be better neighbors. Far too many seem to feel they have an unfettered right to run noisy landscaping, construction, or plumbing operations from their properties. In fact, while the town code allows “home offices,” such as those one might use to run the bookkeeping side of such a concern, commercial activities themselves are banned in residentially zoned areas.
Business owners and the town board alike should work toward a one-person, one-truck compromise. There really is no reason why someone should not be able to head home in his or her plumbing or pool-service vehicle, for example, at the end of a long day. Beyond that, only limited storage of material, equipment, and supplies should be allowed, perhaps based on a percentage of lot area, as loading and unloading operations could easily grow into noisy — and already prohibited — uses.
Regulating all this is, of course, easier to talk about than to do. Town officials will have their hands full rooting out those construction companies or others that have in some cases entirely paved backyards to accommodate large numbers of vehicles. The goal should be community peace and quiet. That someone might consider someone else’s work truck unsightly takes a distant second.