Looking at Limiting Cars

    In an effort to provide town ordinance enforcement officers with a way to identify and eliminate illegally overcrowded housing, the East Hampton Town Board has been talking about placing limits on the number of cars that can be parked overnight on residential properties.
    However, during a discussion of that potential legislation on Tuesday, the board began to veer away from the idea, citing problems in determining just how many cars should be allowed and an ability to achieve the same objective in other ways.
    The thinking was that if numerous cars are regularly parked overnight outside a particular house, it could be an indication that numerous people reside there — perhaps more than the number allowed under the town code or by the state building code, which requires a certain minimum number of square feet per person, per bedroom.
    But large families with grown children, and people who simply collect cars, could exceed a limit on parked cars, the board pointed out, and those are not the situations being targeted.
    The question of whether a certain number of cars parked outside a house is offensive, aesthetically, and should be controlled, is a separate one, the board said Tuesday. “What we’re really interested in is whether or not it’s an indication of overcrowding,” Councilwoman Theresa Quigley said.
    By making observations over a number of days, each morning, for instance, Councilman Pete Hammerle said, ordinance enforcement officers could determine if the cars parked outside a residence appeared to belong to different adults sharing a house. They could then develop the evidence needed to seek court permission to investigate.
    Ms. Quigley suggested enacting a law that would list various conditions at a single-family house that might point to housing code violations. The code already contains such “indicia” in some sections, she said.
    “Could we have a law that said, if these indicators are there . . . we have a presumption that you are violating the town code?” she asked. For instance, if officers observe things such as separate entrances or multiple electricity meters, it could provide the basis for a warrant to be issued.
    Town attorneys have been asked to review the suggestion, which will be discussed at a future board meeting.