Headwinds Hit Proposal for Full Blower Ban In North Haven

Mayor Jeff Sander speaking at the September 21 monthly meeting of the North Haven Village Board, which marked the board’s return to Zoom instead of in-person sessions in Village Hall.

The North Haven Village Board is rethinking its proposal to ban gas-powered leaf blowers year-round beginning next spring for all users, from landscapers to private citizens, after running into some sustained blowback at a public hearing on September 21.

Ten of 11 speakers at the on-line Zoom session urged the board to allow more flexibility and opposed banning gas-powered leaf blowers outright.

“To be told I’ve got to throw away my new leaf blower is ridiculous,” said John Hovekamp.

“Come on, don’t do this,” pleaded landscaper and former Mayor Jack Reiser, who argued that electric blowers “aren’t that much quieter and are not as efficient … Please do not do this for two years,” he added, when the technology for electric blowers will be more advanced.

“I’d like to see the village be a little more sensitive,” said John McCabe, by banning gas-powered blowers only in summer but allowing them in the spring and fall during limited hours.

Mark Poitras, chairman of the village’s Appeals Board, said he opposed an “outright ban” and called on the village to employ “an attitude of tolerance, respect and understanding to address the issue.”

Kim Taipale said he favored a ban but urged the board “to consider exceptions for fall and winter clean-ups.”

As the board adjourned the hearing to next month’s regular board meeting on October 19, Mayor Jeff Sander said the panel “will take into account all the comments and consider changes” to the proposed noise code amendment. He did not specify what they might be.

If significant changes are made to the proposal, the draft amendment will have to be re-advertised as a legal notice in the Sag Harbor Express, no later than the October 7 edition of the paper.

Only one speaker, Carol Ahlers, fully supported an outright ban. “It is a non-stop constant,” she said of her neighbors’ leaf blowing, “from May to Christmastime, from early morning to 8 p.m. at night … Let’s get started reducing all this horrible noise and pollution.”

Trustee Chris Fiore proposed the total ban in at the August Village Board meeting with support from Trustee Dianne Skilbred, who was absent. Mr. Fiore said then that Sag Harbor had “just passed the same ordinance, the same update. I’m told Southampton and East Hampton have done it as well.” Trustee Terie Diat said “the village of Southold just did it.”

But as Mr. McCabe pointed out at the September 21 hearing, North Haven would have been the only municipality with an outright ban on gas leaf-blowers if it had enacted the proposal.

In August, the Town of Southold did not ban but limited the hours for all leaf blowers, electric or gas, year-round, prohibiting them only on Sundays. Sag Harbor in 2020 similarly limited the hours for all types of leaf blowers year-round.

Southampton Village enacted a partial ban in 2019 that prohibited the use of all leaf blowers during the summer season and all year on Sundays and holidays.

East Hampton Town early this year banned the use of gas and diesel-powered leaf blowers during the summer season and set hourly limits for the rest of the year. The Village of East Hampton imposes June-to-December day and hour limits.

The Town of Southampton has considered but never enacted any restrictions on leaf blowers. The Village of Quogue this year banned gas-powered leaf blowers only on Sundays and holidays from May 15 to October 15.

Mr. Fiore said after the September 21 meeting he now favors an “allowance for fall and spring cleanup,” using gas blowers from November 1 to April 30 in 2022-23 followed the next year by the complete ban he originally called for, “but I don’t know if that’s the way it will end up.”

Other Village Business

False fire alarms at village properties will result in fines under a proposal that the Sag Harbor Fire District urged the Village Board to enact. The board agreed at the September 21 meeting to set a hearing on the plan for the October 19 meeting.

North Haven is the only portion of the Sag Harbor Fire District where there is currently no system in place to bill property owners for “excessive false alarms,” Clerk-Treasurer Eileen Tuohy explained.

As a result of the state’s legalization of marijuana use earlier this year, the board adopted an amendment to the “peace and good order” provisions of the Village Code that bans marijuana use in any park or public property, just as tobacco smoking has been prohibited. At a hearing before the vote, there were no public comments.

The board adjourned a hearing on the application of David Tufts’ application to build a dock off his property at 15 Mashomack Drive after a long discussion on several topics, including how much beach would be available for walkers to pass the structure without trespassing on the adjacent upland property

At Mr. Fiore’s suggestion, Mr. Tufts and his consultant agreed to shorten the ramp leading from the dock to the beach by 2 feet. The board also asked for certain details to be specified in the plans, including the absence of lighting.