Gentler Limit on Contractor Noise

A big push to get work done by Memorial Day, then it will be quiet time

A toll-free telephone number at which residents will be able to register complaints about construction and landscaping noise is one outcome of a hearing the East Hampton Village Board held on April 3 on proposals to restrict offending activities.

Barbara Borsack, the deputy mayor, told the board at the hearing that she, Richard Lawler, another board member, and Becky Molinaro, the village administrator, had had a “very constructive” meeting the previous day with involved contractors and representatives of the Village Preservation Society.

It was agreed, she said, that construction and landscaping should conclude by 6 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on Saturdays between June 1 and Sept. 15, and be prohibited on Sundays except by a tenant or homeowner. It was also agreed that radios should be banned from work sites. The group also agreed that the date on which the new restrictions would go into effect should be moved from May 15 to June 1, she said, in order to allow longer hours “through Memorial Day, because that’s when the big push is to get everything done.”

Although the village had proposed changing the start time of such work on weekdays to 9 a.m., the existing 7 a.m. start should be allowed to stand, she said, as the group of business owners insisted it was essential. “They felt it would be a huge hardship to start at 9,” which the village board had proposed, Ms. Borsack said.

No recommendation was made with regard to the commercial use of gas or diesel-powered landscaping equipment, however. The board had proposed a start time of 8 a.m. on weekdays and Saturdays from June 1 through the second Friday in December, the latter date coinciding with the conclusion of the village’s leaf pickup service.

“We talked about decibel levels,” Ms. Borsack said. “We talked about phasing in new equipment for leaf blowers. I think that’s going to take some investigation on our part. . . . We may want to make that a separate issue.”

Joe Morgano of Power Equipment Plus, which sells and repairs landscaping and construction equipment, told the board that Stihl, a manufacturer, “is working with me, and they work with other towns and cities across the country, to help with this problem.” Mr. Morgano also suggested that landscape companies “need to train their help.” A handheld leaf blower, he said, is quieter than those incorporating a backpack and should be used for smaller jobs, for example.

Margaret Turner of the East Hampton Business Alliance applauded the idea of a hotline for complaints. “That’s important to . . . perhaps help the village focus in on where the problems lie,” she said.

Kathy Cunningham, speaking on behalf of the Village Preservation Society, said homeowners had to do their part in policing noise levels, as well. “This can only work collaboratively if there’s a functioning hotline, and homeownersneed to understand that they need to hire contractors that are observing these rules and regulations.”

On Tuesday, Ms. Molinaro said the village was already working to establish the hotline and hoped it would be operational within two weeks. An email address would also be set up for residents to register complaints, she said. That could be implemented sooner, she said, but village officials would prefer to launch both simultaneously.

The hearing had been closed on April 3, but was reopened when Michael Tuths, a landscaper, told the board  some of his colleagues were still unclear on how the proposed legislation would affect them. How would the new rules apply to a landscaper who is building a patio, he asked. That is construction, Linda Riley, the village attorney, responded.

Declan Blackmore of Summerhill Landscapes in Sag Harbor said that 70 percent of his business was construction. “I’m a landscape contractor, but we build gardens.”

“We’re trying to reach agreement between those that don’t want the noise and those that have to create some noise to do their work,” Mr. Lawler told Mr. Blackmore. “We’re not targeting landscapers, we’re trying to target the problem.”

Also on April 3, the board continued to discuss a solution to the parking shortage in the business district. Its most recent proposal would restrict parking in municipal lots to two hours between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. from May 1 through Dec. 31, and on Fridays, Saturdays, and federal holidays from Jan. 1 through April 30.

When Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. asked Scott Fithian, the superintendent of public works, for an opinion, Mr. Fithian suggested limiting parking in some or all of the spaces directly behind Village Hardware in the Barns-Schenck lot to 15 or 30 minutes. “I’ve had a lot of people complain about getting into the hardware store,” he said. Capt. Mike Tracey of the Police Department said that Chief Gerard Larsen had suggested a 15-minute limit at spaces near the Waldbaum’s supermarket in the Reutershan lot.

The board also discussed the efficacy of signs in the Reutershan lot designating a section exclusively for compact cars. Mary Anna Morris, general manager of the Ladies Village Improvement Society headquarters adjacent to the lot, said, “As someone who is right there every day, that is absolutely not enforced.” Many volunteers at the nearby L.V.I.S., she said, are senior citizens who have said they would not volunteer if they had to park in the long-term lot near Lumber Lane during the winter. “Please keep the local population’s needs in mind,” she said.

The mayor, suggesting that a legal definition of compact cars was necessary, asked Mr. Fithian to see if the small-car section could be reconfigured so that the overall lot could accommodate more vehicles. “We have a finite number of parking spaces within the central commercial business core in the village,” he said. “We’re doing our best to deliver a product that works for everybody.”



What is the toll free phone number?
According to a village official, hope was for the new complaint line to be operating within two weeks.