Noise Over Blower Ban

Graham seeks exemption for Maidstone Club

The East Hampton Village Board grappled last Thursday with how to implement a proposed restriction on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, and approved a draft of a law prohibiting storeowners from keeping their doors open when a cooling system is operating. Also, members agreed that a proposed law requiring septic system upgrades should be revised and clarified as to how it will be enforced.

One aspect of the proposed ban on gas-powered leaf blowers — the fact that no properties in the village, not even golf courses, would be exempt from the ban — provoked a testy exchange between Arthur Graham, a trustee, and the mayor. When Mr. Graham said that golf courses should be exempt, the mayor accused him of trying to protect the interests of the Maidstone Club. “You are a vested member of the Maidstone Club. I would ask that you recuse yourself,” Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. said. “You cannot serve two masters. It’s called transparency and ethics.” Mr. Graham rolled his eyes, but did not respond.

When board members first discussed the ban, they agreed that it would not take effect for three years, in order to give smaller landscaping companies time to phase in the costs of transitioning to battery-powered equipment.

Linda Riley, the village attorney, informed the board that such a delay was not feasible. “I couldn’t find any place that a law was phased in three years out,” she said. “A whole other board could be in place in three years. I understand the motivation, but legally I find it troublesome.”

Mayor Rickenbach suggested a six-month delay instead, but the other board members said that short a time would create an undue burden on small-business owners.

To help the board achieve consensus on a suitable phase-in period and other aspects of the law, the mayor decided that an informal advisory committee should be formed, consisting of local landscaping companies both large and small; the Ladies Village Improvement Society, the Village Preservation Society, and the Garden Club of East Hampton. He instructed Becky Molinaro Hansen, the village administrator, to organize a meeting of the advisers. 

As to the new septic system law, the board had decided on Sept. 6 to confine it to residential properties. The draft presented last week would require the installation and maintenance of low-nitrogen sanitary systems for all new residences, and for existing ones that expand their gross floor area by 25 percent or increase their number of bedrooms. 

The draft also states that a board-appointed “sanitation inspector” would be responsible for the law’s administration and enforcement, but Ken Collum, a village code enforcement officer, raised concerns about its practicality. The new sanitary systems require ongoing maintenance, he said, so how would the village be able to keep track of whether they were functioning properly? 

“Kenny raises good questions,” said Billy Hajek, the village planner and a member of East Hampton Town’s water  quality technical advisory committee. Mr. Hajek said the law should take into account that the county’s Department of Health Services not only issues the permits for the installation of the advanced septic systems, but also has a procedure in place for overseeing their maintenance. “When somebody obtains an approval from the county, they enter into an agreement with the installer,” he told the board. “The installer monitors the system, and they’re certified by the county to do it. I don’t know that the village needs to monitor it after it goes into the ground.”

Ms. Riley said she would redraft the law. The board will discuss the revisions at its next meeting. 

The intent of the proposed law that would prohibit storeowners from keeping their doors open while the store is air-conditioned is to reduce energy consumption and environmentally harmful emissions. Under the law, a store’s exterior door would be allowed open only when people enter and exit, or for deliveries. Every board member agreed that having an air-conditioned space’s doors open was wasteful, but Rose Brown and Mr. Graham said the legislation was a bit of government overreach, and Ms. Brown predicted that enforcing it would prove tricky. There will be a public hearing on the law on Nov. 16.

In other business, the board agreed to establish a pilot program that will test whether removing garbage cans from the beach would reduce the amount of trash people leave behind. Trash cans would instead be placed at an adjacent parking lot. The program, which was suggested by the East Hampton Town Trustees, will be tried out next summer at a village beach yet to be determined. 

Mayor Rickenbach said that similar tests conducted by the State Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not result in a reduction of garbage, but he remained optimistic. “It’s a complicated subject, but we’ll work in concert with the town trustees and come up with a location and a time frame, and hopefully achieve some positive results,” he said.

Before the meeting ended, Scott Fithian, Superintendent of Public Works, informed the board that the M.T.A., which has been working on the retaining walls of the village’s railroad trestles in preparation for raising the trestles early next year, has requested permission to close down Accabonac Road on Saturdays in order to complete the work, which has been delayed by weather conditions. The mayor agreed, but insisted that the M.T.A. provide adequate signage as well as flag wavers so that drivers are properly alerted to the road closings.