Talk of Deer and Noise at Year’s First Meeting

       Deer management and the noise of leaf blowers dominated the conversation at the East Hampton Village Board’s first meeting of 2014 on Friday. A good report on village finances and a conservation easement were also on the agenda.

       With a protest against the planned culling of deer barely 24 hours away, the board voted to authorize Joel Markowitz of Lamb and Barnosky, a Melville law firm, to represent the village in a lawsuit filed last month by wildlife advocates. Later, Kathleen Cunningham of the Village Preservation Society addressed the board, as she has several times in recent months, to ask that a sterilization program be employed in conjunction with a cull.

       “We had hoped that by embracing a sterilization program we might avoid the very litigation that you had to deal with this morning,” she said. “While relatively expensive compared to other options, it is something the village  can afford to do.” She said her organization supported the cull relunctantly, and added, “We really did hope the sterilization program would go forward because that is where we see the most success, and the most support from the community. We’re wanting that commitment from the board.”

       The board is committed to multiyear culling, Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach answered, “but you are definitely in the program as it unfolds further. We’re trying to deal with the problem at the immediate moment.”

        “What are we going to do from this point on to implement a sterilizion program?” Barbara Borsack, a member of the board, asked the mayor. He replied that it could be married to the culling program.

       Noting that the State Department of Environmental Conservation has control over any deer management program, Ms. Cunningham said, “For us to implement a sterilization program for this fall — that’s when it should happen, in November and December — all of the permitting and so forth must begin  now. . . . We need a landmark.”

       The village will work with the D.E.C. where applicable, the mayor said, but he added that he was against any immuno-contraception program that would be in conflict with the cull.

       There would be no conflict, Ms. Cunningham said. “In fact, the D.E.C. requires that a lethal component be present in order to permit the sterilization permit. Which is why this is an opportune moment to apply for those permits.”

       The Village Preservation Society had conducted its own research, she said, which indicated that both culling and sterilization are necessary to establish a sustainable herd. “We’re just eager to get something started that isn’t going to rend the community in two.”

       Noise in residential neighborhoods came up earlier in the meeting. John Tuohy of Borden Lane read a statement in which he described the modifications made to the village code with respect to noise from construction and landscaping as falling short of what a committee he had served on wanted.

       “I submit that the landscaper noise from gasoline-powered leaf blowers and also gasoline-powered hedge clippers is more pervasive, ubiquitous, and bothersome than ever, and particularly disturbing in the morning and evening,” he said. Mr. Tuohy urged the board to consider further modifications in time for the next summer season, which he noted starts on May 1. He proposed a ban on the commercial use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers and further restriction on gasoline-powered hedge clippers. Short of a ban on the latter, from which he said individual homeowners should be exempted, he suggested restricting their use to Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. as a compromise or interim step.

       “The current level and cacophony of gasoline-powered leaf blower noise in the village is worse than ever and particularly inconsistent with the tranquillity and the serenity to which we all aspire and deserve,” he said.

       As it happens, the mayor told Mr. Tuohy, he had asked Ms. Borsack to chair a subcommittee to review the problem. He proposed that Mr. Tuohy, the Village Preservation Society, and the East Hampton Group for Good Government hold a meeting to consider solutions.

       “Your comments this morning did not fall on deaf ears,” the mayor said, “and I assume that within two weeks you will get notification that the first meeting” of the subcommittee will happen.

       The meeting had started with a report by Frank Sluter, a certified public account with Satty, Levine, and Ciacco, on his firm’s examination of the village’s finances. “This year you received an unqualified opinion, which is a clean opinion,” Mr. Sluter told the board, “which means that the financial statements definitely show the finances of the village without any major changes to them.”

       Overall expenses, Mr. Sluter said, were $440,000 less than budgeted, with a decrease of $206,000 in employee benefits a major part of that decrease. Revenues, however, increased by $1.2 million, including a $380,000 increase in fines and a $229,000 increase in licenses and permits.

       Mayor Rickenbach called the report “a continuing manifestation as to the way the village is conducting its finances. We want to be fiscally prudent and try to continue in that vein,” he said.

       The board held a hearing on the acceptance of a conservation easement on a parcel of more than five acres at the intersection of Cove Hollow Farm and Ruxton Roads. Last month, Becky Molinaro, the village administrator, told the board that the Trust for Public Land had reported that it could no longer meet its obligation to visit the property annually and had offered to give the village an easement.

       The Peconic Land Trust, which has title to the property, had expressed an interest in letting it revert to its natural state. With no comment from the public or members of the board, the hearing was closed and the board voted unanimously to authorize the easement’s acquisition.

       The board also agreed to seek bids for the Newtown Lane lighted crosswalk project, which it had approved last year. Bids are to be opened on Feb. 25 at 2 p.m. at Village Hall.