Signs and Bamboo: Should There Be a Ban?

    Possible legislation limiting both the size of signs and the preponderance of bamboo was discussed at the East Hampton Village Board’s work session last Thursday.
    Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. introduced the idea of reducing the size of temporary commercial signs, like those used by real estate agents and contractors, from the current allowable seven square feet to one and a half square feet.
    The mayor pointed to recent sign legislation on Shelter Island, which limits temporary signs to a total area of one and a half square feet.
    “They expected there to be more resistance than they actually had,” he said of the Shelter Island legislature. “Most real estate agents were in favor of it.”
    “Can we impose a term?” asked Bruce Siska, a board member. “There are two lots on my street where the signs have been up for five years.”
    Barbara Strong Borsack, the deputy mayor, said that setting time limits on signs would be very difficult. “And real estate is not going the way it used to,” she added. “I would hate to affect business.”
    Mayor Rickenbach said he would be willing to compromise if the board was amenable to a public hearing.
    “I’m not in any way berating the real estate agents,” he said. “But with all the open houses on the weekends, and the signs all over the place, it sends a message that East Hampton Village is for sale. It isn’t, and it does a disservice to the good people who live here.”
    Also last Thursday, the board continued a discussion about the possibility of a ban on bamboo. Valued by some as an inexpensive and fast-growing ornamental, the invasive plant has taken over a few village lots, with little regard for property lines.
    Elbert Edwards, a board member, said he felt an overall ban on bamboo in the village to be “a little drastic.”
    “If a person has a problem with vegetation encroaching on their property, they have a right to bring a civil suit,” said Linda Riley, the village attorney. “You can certainly have a law that says it has to be maintained on your own property and not encroach, but then you have to be prepared to prove it,” she said. “If it becomes a local law, it can’t be left to a neighbor’s decision” about whether it is bothering them or not. “That makes the neighbor into the building inspector,” she said.
    “Do we need to have legislation on this?” Ms. Borsack asked. “If there’s only been two complaints, can they take it up civilly?”
    “We are sympathetic to the people who have reached out to Village Hall on this,” the mayor said. “How can we be proactive and preventative?” The board decided to put the matter on hold for now.
    The village board also discussed the requirements of a federally and state-mandated stormwater management plan meant to address regulations for what are officially called Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems.
    “It’s a national law, handed down to the state to implement, then handed down to individual small governments to handle,” said Larry Cantwell, the village administrator. The new mandates are costly, he said, but “you don’t really have a choice.”
    “It will be expensive, but ultimately we’re going to have to come up with a mitigation plan to implement this program that has fallen on our shoulders,” he said, adding that the village already has “a reasonably decent handle on this.”