Landscapers and builders came out in force on Friday to criticize an East Hampton Village proposal to curtail noise from construction and commercial landscaping equipment, calling it overly broad and unfairly punitive.
The proposed amendment to village code would limit the hours in which construction activity is permitted, shortening the present 7 a.m.-to-8 p.m. timeframe on weekdays to 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. between May 15 and Sept. 15. Construction on Saturday during that period would also be prohibited before 9 a.m., where present law allows an 8 a.m. start. Between April 1 and the second Friday in December, commercial use of gas or diesel-powered lawn care equipment would be allowed only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Use of such equipment by anyone other than the homeowner or tenant would be prohibited on Sundays and federal holidays.
Jack Forst, a builder, said the proposal was “a slap in the face to the working community.” Is the village a working community, he asked, “or do we roll over and die for everybody from New York City that comes out in the summertime?”
And Pat Trunzo, also a builder, warned that the amendment would “drastically affect our industry” and its workers, not least by cutting hours from the workweek when the weather is most conducive to such work. A typical 7 a.m.-to-3 p.m. workday, Mr. Trunzo said, also affords workers “time to coach Little League or pursue civic or volunteer work.” And, he said, the long hours in which construction work can be done “allows those who serve as volunteer firemen or [emergency medical technicians] on the local ambulance corps to make up for the working hours they lose responding to those emergency calls.”
Mr. Trunzo advised the board to distinguish between noisier construction activity and work performed by electricians, plumbers, or carpenters working indoors. “If you honestly believe a change is necessary, you need to tailor this law . . . to target just those few activities that are generating chronic complaints,” he said.
Bonnie Krupinski, speaking on behalf of her husband’s, Ben Krupinski’s, contracting business, said that both East Hampton Town and Village had charted a path to becoming a second-home community decades ago. “Based on that concept, the two major industries are the building and the landscaping businesses,” she said. “You’re throwing this out here with no figures, no data, no information. . . .” The village, she said, is becoming “an over-regulated community.”
The proposed law, said Margaret Turner of the East Hampton Business Alliance, would also eliminate overtime pay, “which many workers depend on.” The board should consider wider economic repercussions, she said. “The reduction in work hours means less money is made, so less goes back into the economy. That includes less sales tax. This law should not be passed as written.”
Builders and landscapers also seized upon a component of the proposed law that would exempt municipalities and “a membership club on a golf course,” or the Maidstone Club, from regulations on use of power landscaping equipment.
The proposed legislation addresses numerous complaints from residents about construction and landscaping noise early in the morning and into the evening. A few of them, outnumbered by opponents of the plan, spoke in its defense.
“I’m surrounded by the cacophony of sound from mowers and blowers Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, almost every week through December — and this year, curiously, February,” said Joan Osborne, who lives on Main Street. Ms. Osborne spoke of landscapers “rearranging the leaves” with leaf blowers, echoing complaints voiced at previous meetings. “I’m in favor of any restriction you can make on the mowing and blowing from early morning to late at night,” she told the board.
Leaf blowers are “annoying,” conceded Rich Sperber, who owns a landscaping company, but he suggested that the board and landscapers find “a happy medium,” with a prohibition of their use on Sundays as a possible compromise.
H. Pat Voges, of the Nassau Suffolk Landscape Gardeners Association, told the board that his industry “has taken great strides in lowering the decibels of our equipment. There are blowers now that don’t exceed 42 decibels where they used to exceed 80.” Restricting landscapers’ ability to “get your village looking great by Memorial Day,” he said, would encourage second homeowners to “start looking elsewhere.”
Combining the issues of noise generated by both construction and landscaping, while intended to simplify the matter for code enforcement purposes, was an error, concluded Barbara Borsack, the deputy mayor. “We certainly never meant to restrict indoor construction,” she said. “We’re going to have to separate the two.”
Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., citing the “valid comments made by those of you in the industry,” said that the hearing would be kept open until the board’s April 3 work session.
The board also heard from a multitude of business owners on extending the parking limits in the village lots off Newtown Lane, Main Street, and North Main Street. A two-hour limit in the Reutershan, Schenck, and North Main Street lots is now enforced between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 1 through Nov. 30, but the board has proposed lengthening that period to April 1 to Dec. 31, and Friday through Sunday and on federal holidays between Jan. 1 and March 31. In the village lot behind the Chase Bank on Main Street, parking between April 1 and Dec. 31 and Friday through Sunday and federal holidays from January through March would be limited to one hour, except for bank employees.
Most speakers were in favor of extending the period in which the two-hour limit is in effect, but many suggested modifying the proposal. Imposing a two-hour limit in April, and on Sundays between January and March, some said, was unnecessary.
But a lack of available parking is negatively impacting businesses, many said. “There is a pervasive feeling that, more and more for locals, going into the village is a hassle,” said Donna McDonald, an owner of Park Place Wines and Liquors, which faces the Reutershan lot. “Our traffic was down 10 percent last holiday season, and it’s been a drop-off since the two-hour [limit] was suspended,” she said.
Extending the two-hour limit to April and weekends during the winter months is “a must,” said Bernard Kiembock of Village Hardware on Newtown Lane. “Our traffic back there is tremendous,” he said, “and I would like you to, at least in our section, change that regulation.”
Ms. Borsack said that, if her colleagues agreed, April and Sundays between January and March should be exempted from the new restrictions. Richard Lawler, another board member, proposed a committee to further discuss the matter.
Mayor Rickenbach said that the board would seek input from the Chamber of Commerce, the East Hampton Business Alliance, and the Ladies Village Improvement Society. “We’re trying to generate the right environment for people to take advantage of our commercial business,” he said. “We’ll move ahead as appropriate.”