Beginning May 1, no one will be permitted to use a gas-powered leaf blower in the Village of North Haven from May through October each year, under the terms of a local law adopted by the Village Board in a unanimous vote at its monthly meeting on November 16.
“I think it’s the right thing for the village to do at this point in time,” commented Mayor Jeff Sander at the close of a public hearing on the proposal. He praised Trustees Dianne Skilbred and Chris Fiore, who in August initially proposed a total year-round ban, for their work developing the legislation.
Fiore said he and Skilbred had scaled back that ban to six months because residents and landscapers had complained that the full-year ban “was too draconian.”
Locally, North Haven joins only the Village of Southampton and the Town of East Hampton in banning gas-powered blowers for any part of the year. Most other municipalities in the area, including Sag Harbor and the village of East Hampton, limit blowers only by time and days. The Town of Southampton has weighed restrictions but never adopted any.
Battery-powered leaf blowers are not restricted by the new law. The mayor said that technical advances now allow them to have nearly as much power as gas blowers, and they can be purchased for about $250.
Some landscaping firms may be “impacted” be the new law, he said, “but they will have to convert” to electric equipment anyway, as more jurisdictions legislate against gas equipment as too noisy and environmentally harmful.
North Haven’s new law, which revises the village’s noise code, also tightens the rules prohibiting construction work on weekends and requires the building inspector to shut down construction sites for seven days if they again violate the rules after one warning. A third violation incurs an automatic 14-day shutdown; in the case of a fourth violation, the building permit is to be revoked and a fine of $1,500 levied.
Building Inspector George Butts asked the Village Board to enact the change earlier this year because, he said then, builders didn’t care about the modest fines they faced for violations.
Among other new provisions, the amended code also reduces by one hour in the evening the period when construction work is allowed on weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., instead of 8 p.m. It allows homeowners to make their own repairs not requiring a building permit on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
It also adds “speakers” and “outdoor televisions” to the list of musical and electronic equipment that may not be used in a way that disturbs “the peace, quiet and comfort” of neighbors.
The new code allows landscaping and tree-trimming equipment to be used only between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays and on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Homeowners may also work on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Commercial landscapers may not work on Sundays or holidays. The previous code had no restrictions on landscaping activity.
Five residents spoke during the public hearing, most generally in favor of a partial ban. One speaker, Tiffany Gallo, was vehemently opposed. She said a landscaper had told her he would stop working in the area because “he can’t afford to go all electric.”
“There are a ton of mom-and-pop landscapers who can’t afford it,” she said, leaving the field to only large-scale firms “that will charge more.” She added, “I want peace and quiet, too, but other communities have other timing restrictions in place, and I don’t know why we’re not considering [that option].”
Fiore replied that they had considered it and had agreed that timing restrictions “would be unenforceable.”
Peter Lynch suggested a four-month gas blower ban instead of six months.
Monica Caan said she was “completely for” the six-month ban but preferred a full-year ban.
Kim Taipale said, “Every small landscaper I’ve talked to is open to the idea of moving to electronic” equipment. “I do think this is the right way to go.”
Terry Kleinberg said the ban was “great” and she was “all in favor.”
Also at the November 16 meeting, the board held over consideration of a proposed code amendment to impose fines for false police and fire alarms until the village can determine if the Town of Southampton is already billing village property owners for them.
Clerk-Treasurer Eileen Tuohy reported that she was hoping video and audio equipment will be installed in the Village Hall meeting room and operational in January to allow both in-person and Zoom meeting of the Village Board of Trustees and other village panels at the same time.