By Mara Certic
As second homeowners return to the East End for summer, and landscapers get to work preparing their lawns for the busy season, conversation at the monthly meeting of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee has once again turned to leaf blowers and how to keep them quiet.
When Bridgehampton resident Stephen Jones came to the CAC last August to talk about the negative impact of leaf blowers on human health and the environment, the group unanimously agreed to pass a resolution asking the town to put in place a seasonal ban on the noisy tools.
“There was no question that people in this room were fed up with the noise,” Mr. Jones said on Monday evening. “The resolution went to Town Hall, and it’s fair to say there’s no support from four of the councilmen,” he added.
Councilman Brad Bender, who attended Monday night’s meeting, was the only board member to support the ban last year. He said it failed to gain support because other members were concerned about its impact on local businesses.
“The primary pushback is coming from the landscaping industry,” Mr. Jones said, adding that landscaping is the biggest private business on the East End. “They feel a seasonal ban would hurt their business,” he said, “But the upshot is, their argument just doesn’t hold water.”
Mr. Jones and Jamie Banks, executive director of the nationwide nonprofit Quiet Communities, refreshed their fellow CAC members on the various dangers of leaf blowers (in addition to releasing carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene emissions into the atmosphere, the concentrated amounts of ground level ozone and particulate matter produced by gas-powered blowers can cause asthma and other maladies.)
“This is going on in New England, this is going on in California,” Dr. Banks said. “Noise and pollution are degrading our beautiful places,” she said.
The problem is that two-stroke engines have no pollution controls, Dr. Banks said. The noisiest ones can be very lightweight, she said, because there’s no real noise insulation. While Dr. Banks was discussing the various side effects of the loud blowers, committee member Leonard Davenport interrupted her to ask: “How do we get the town to act?”
“I think we wouldn’t be here if they weren’t overused. We’ve all seen them,” he said. There was a murmur of agreement in the room, while one member asked about whether the CAC had a legal leg to stand on when it comes to the noisy machines, and another said “for the town not to do something is a disgrace.” Someone else suggested that the community start calling code enforcement each time they hear a noisy leaf blower.
Mr. Bender took exception to the endless criticism of the town board, and addressed the CAC.
“I’m the only one who took a look at trying to do something about the noise,” Mr. Bender explained. “There’s two words that keep resonating here in what you’re saying: the town, the town, the town. What about the people?” he asked.
“Where’s your responsibility?” he asked. “And how do we not waste tax dollars on our five code enforcement officers chasing leaf blowers around? We haven’t had a tax increase for five years,” Mr. Bender said. “We’ve been real good stewards.”
“When we go to public hearings, are you going to be able to rally enough people to overpower the no?” he asked. The members of the CAC were adamant that they would be there en force for any and all opportunities to speak on the subject.
Later in the meeting, the members of the CAC unanimously adopted another leaf blower resolution; this one had them agree that, “all of us are going to tell the people who work for us they can only use weed whackers,” one woman said.
The founders of Reel Quiet Mowing, a Southampton-based company that uses human-powered, hand-push reel lawn mowers, were at the meeting and said their services were an alternative to noisy gas-powered machines.
In other action, Steve Colabufo, water resources manager for the Suffolk County Water Authority, gave an informational presentation on local groundwater: where it comes from, how it gets polluted and how it can be cleaned. Bridgehampton, he said, did not have any contamination he was aware of, but he told the group that everyone should be trying to save water.
“It’s a good public safety thing,” he said.
A member of the Southampton Town ZBA and a nominee for town justice, Adam Grossman, came to the CAC to introduce himself to the community ahead of the campaign season. Mr. Grossman has been an attorney for 22 years, and was the Riverhead town attorney in the late 1990s. He grew up in Sag Harbor, and was a 1983 graduate of Pierson High School.
“I have never run for elected office and I’m thrilled to death,” Mr. Grossman said.
“I hope to have your support and intend to be a hardworking, devoted town justice.”