A proposal meant to close a loophole that is barring enforcement of an East Hampton Town prohibition on running businesses and parking large commercial vehicles at residences will go back to the drawing board.
A hearing to change the definition of “light truck” in the East Hampton Town Code was to be held tonight, but was postponed due to an error in the published notice. At the same time, members of the East Hampton Town Board found other details to adjust.
The proposed definition of a light truck is one that weighs 10,000 pounds or less and is a maximum of 25 feet long. However, the legal notice for the hearing described a light truck as weighing “10,000 pounds or more,” not less. There are no restrictions on light trucks in residential zones.
Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said that, as now written, the code amendment “essentially outlaws anything that is not a ‘light truck.’ ” Business owners, he suggested, should be allowed to park one larger vehicle at their residences, “within certain limits. I’m not talking about a semi truck.”
“I really don’t want to hurt the sole proprietor with a single vehicle,” he said. “It might be a landscaper, it might be a painter. . . .”
Another problem, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson pointed out, is that while the code amendment would make it clear that large trucks cannot be parked on residential lots, there is nothing on the books that prohibits the parking of those vehicles along residential streets.
“We haven’t thought through all the details,” said Councilwoman Theresa Quigley.
As she has during several previous discussions of the issue, she said she “is loath” to enact a law that could have an impact on business owners.
“Before we start saying what you can’t do, you have to have a suggestion as to what you can do,” she said.
And, said Mr. Wilkinson, if the town bans large truck parking on properties and on residential streets, the board must also “look at areas they could congregate” outside of those places, such as at public parking lots. He said he had hoped that “in each hamlet, we could provide some alternate parking for these vehicles.”
“I just want to make a fundamental point that seems to have been forgotten: the zoning code already prohibits commercial businesses in a residential zone,” interjected Patrick Gunn, the head of the town’s public safety division, who has been asking the board for months to address the problems with enforcing this particular part of the code.
Ms. Quigley presented maps showing the few vacant lots in the town that are zoned for commercial use. However, said Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, to get a real idea of what might be available for businesses now illegally operating in residential zones, the board should get information about the occupancy level of existing commercial sites, as well as the number that have been approved by the planning board but are not yet built.
Another question, said Mr. Van Scoyoc, is “how many operations are in a residential area? That’s what I expect we will hear at a public hearing.”
“We are trying to address a very specific problem here,” he said. “That is, people who are operating businesses in residential zones, to a level that affects, very negatively, the neighbors and the neighborhood.”
“At a certain level,” he said, a business is expected to move its operations to an area zoned for that activity.
“That’s ridiculous,” Mr. Wilkinson remarked. “Where is the mandate that they go into a commercial zone?”
“That’s called zoning,” Mr. Van Scoyoc and Ms. Overby both told him. “If you disagree with zoning. . . ,” Mr. Van Scoyoc began.
The problem, Mr. Wilkinson said, is the dearth of commercial zoning in the town — only 4 percent of the properties, he said.
In hindsight, Councilman Dominick Stanzione said, the board could ask, “Was that smart?”
“Certainly we used the zoning process to achieve that, and we would use the zoning process to adjust that,” Mr. Stanzione said. But in the meantime, he said, while there “is an obvious lack of preparation on the part of our planning” to provide adequate space for businesses, the board must “balance the interests.” He has advocated addressing the loophole in the code first before tackling larger planning issues.