After years of complaints about noisy leaf blowers, the Village of North Haven will become the first municipality in the region to ban gas-powered leaf blowers year-round for all users if it adopts a proposed noise code change unveiled by Trustee Chris Fiore during the Village Board’s monthly meeting on August 17.
The proposed ban, which would apply not only to commercial landscaping crews but homeowners as well, would take effect April 1, 2022 if it is adopted. It also would include tough penalties for construction crews that work on weekends in violation of the village’s noise code.
“Hopefully, as of the first of April next year, we will never hear a gas-powered leaf blower” again in North Haven, Mr. Fiore said after highlighting the provisions of the proposed code amendment, which he developed with Trustee Dianne Skilbred, who was absent.
After Mr. Fiore outlined the proposal, board members agreed to set a public hearing on it for the board’s next regular meeting at 5 p.m. on September 21 in Village Hall. Town Clerk Eileen Tuohy said this week that the village attorney was drafting the text of the proposal, which will be published as a legal notice in the Sag Harbor Express.
Mr. Fiore told board members he had spoken with “a couple of landscapers” and they had expressed no opposition to the proposed ban, telling him they’ve been expecting similar restrictions across the region.
Mr. Fiore said they had told him it might cost them about $4,000 to buy battery-powered commercial blowers and an adequate supply of extra batteries and chargers for their crews and “they didn’t seem to be surprised or upset.”
He added that he would prefer “to just not hear” the sound of gas-powered leaf blowers “any more, including from any resident … even if it’s high leaf time.”
Heavy-duty battery-powered blowers for residential use are available online for about $200 to $300, with extra batteries and chargers close to the same price. Lighter models labeled “cordless” are cheaper. Heavy duty gas-powered leaf blowers are generally slightly cheaper than their battery-powered counterparts but some go for similar prices.
Board members said that other municipalities have enacted bans like the one North Haven is proposing. Mr. Fiore said Sag Harbor had “just passed the same ordinance, the same update. I’m told Southampton and East Hampton have done it as well”; and Trustee Terie Diat said “the village of Southold just did it.”
But North Haven would be a pioneer in banning gas-powered leaf blowers outright.
The Town of Southold this month limited the hours for all leaf blowers use year-round, prohibiting them only on Sundays. Sag Harbor in 2020 limited the hours of use 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 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.
The noise code proposal also includes a provision that would let Building Inspector George Butts get tough on contractors who violate the noise code’s existing ban on weekend and holiday construction. If they ignore one warning, Mr. Butts would be empowered to slap a one-week stop work order on the project. A third offense would result in a $5,000 fine and a two-week stop work order.
The maximum fine is currently $250, with no stop work order. That doesn’t deter the contractors, Mr. Butts told the Village Board in June. “They just don’t care,” he said.
Other provisions of the proposed noise code amendments would ban outdoor speakers mounted to direct sound “toward adjacent property.” Also, hours for “tractors, lawnmowers, leaf blowers and power saws” would be limited to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Yard contractors also would be permitted to work on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and prohibited from working on Sundays.
Also at the August 17 session, the Village Board enacted a six-month moratorium on shoreline hardening structures such as rock revetments and bulkheads, as expected, while the board develops new regulations for erosion-control projects.
There was no public comment during a hearing on the plan. The vote was 3-1, with Trustee Diat voting “no” after arguing the moratorium should also cover “soft” shoreline protection projects such as vegetative “coir” logs and plantings. Other board members disagreed, saying the village has long tried to encourage “soft” shoreline protection measures and shouldn’t restrict them now.
In other action at the meeting, the board:
• Heard Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni, a North Haven resident, announce that the Southampton Town Board was set to approve the purchase of the 4-acre former Lovelady Powell property on Sunset Beach Road for preservation through the town’s Community Preservation Fund.
• Approved an intermunicipal agreement with Sag Harbor under which Harbormaster Bob Bori’s team will patrol all of North Haven’s waters to enforce local regulations, not just the “inner cove,” at a cost of $12,500.
• Discussed meeting with Southampton Town Police to more effectively address the problem of speeding drivers and drivers who ignore stop signs. Clerk-Treasurer Eileen Tuohy said she would invite the police to send representatives to the next board meeting on September 21.
• Discussed asking horticulturalist Chris Miller, who manages the village’s 4-poster tick-killing deer-feeding stations, to attend a board meeting to report on the program’s status and effectiveness.
• Heard Trustee Fiore report that cell service in North Haven could be improved significantly if radio station WLNG’s owner Bill Evans succeeds in winning permission from Sag Harbor to replace the existing broadcast tower on Redwood Road with a 160-foot monopole on which cell providers could install their equipment. Mr. Fiore said no dates had been set yet for Sag Harbor’s planning board or village board review of the proposal.
• Heard Trustee Diat report that village residents will soon receive an email with a link to participate in an on-line poll inquiring about the issues they want the village to address.
• Decided to seek another proposal for the installation of equipment in the meeting room that will allow synchronous broadcast of in-person public meetings on line via Zoom. Ms. Tuohy presented one proposal that includes two 65-inch screens and a laptop as well as cameras and microphones for $16,640.
• Set a public hearing for September 21 on an amendment to the “Peace and Good Order” section of the Village Code to prohibit marijuana use and vaping on public property.
• Discussed the need to establish a procedure to allow the Sag Harbor Fire District to fine North Haven property owners for false fire alarms, as it fines property owners elsewhere in the fire district.