North Haven Weighs Leaf Pickup Options, Postpones Vote

The North Haven Village Board, absent member David Saskas, during its January 2019 meeting. Christine Sampson photo

With more potential options for leaf pickup to consider, and more input from local residents, the North Haven Village Board on Tuesday decided to postpone making a decision on the fate of its leaf pickup program.

The board instead voted to continue its ongoing leaf hearing at its next meeting, February 19 at 5 p.m.

Village clerk Eileen Tuohy presented her research on how Southampton Town handles leaf pickup for senior citizens. For those aged 73 and older, according to Ms. Tuohy, Southampton picks up leaves on both public and private roads — a service funded through the town’s general budget. She said North Haven would most likely be able to opt in to Southampton’s senior citizen leaf pickup program, but it would involve arranging an intermunicipal agreement and likely “another separate line on your tax bill” from the town.

Ms. Tuohy also said Southampton also has a short-term voucher program for leaf disposal, in which residents are encouraged to discard their leaves at town waste sites during a specific six-week period. If they use private contractors, Ms. Tuohy explained, they could obtain a voucher to waive the dumping fee for leaves and pay the contractor only for labor, instead of both labor and disposal.

“You just have to be a resident. There is no age restriction,” she said. “The vouchers are for everybody.”

Currently, North Haven does not collect leaves from private roads, which predominate in the village. But property owners in private associations nevertheless pay taxes that help support the village’s pick-up on its few public roads. The Village Board has been seeking a way to make the program more equitable but meanwhile has formally proposed discontinuing the leaf pick-up altogether.

The village dumps the leaves it collects at the site that Sag Harbor Village plans to use for its new police impound lot. The board acknowledged Tuesday a new plan will likely have to be arranged.

“As you can see, this is a complicated subject,” Mayor Jeff Sander said.

“Every time we keep investigating something, we find another quirk or nuance.”

North Haven currently budgets $47,500 for leaf pickup, and has looked at breaking it down three ways. If the cost were spread across the 367 properties that receive the service on public roads based on property value, it would cost between $15.83 and $1,812, depending on the assessed value of the property. If it were divided based on lot size, the cost would be between $19.60 and $2,352. If the cost were evenly divided among all properties that receive the service, each property would be charged $129.43. Properties that don’t receive the service would pay nothing.

When the hearing was first opened in December, public feedback was scant; this time around the board had more input from residents.

George Morell told the board he believes “either the village should pick up everybody’s leaves or nobody’s leaves. I think it’s unfair to people on private roads.”

Another resident, Susan Edwards, suggested towns and villages are soon going to come up against the problem of actual disposal, not just the issue of paying for it, because regional yard waste facilities are reaching capacity. She said perhaps residents should be moving toward “keeping stuff on your own property, composting, doing what you can do.”

Mr. Sander read letters from residents, including one from Joe Zaykowski, who said, “The last thing we need is another high cost on top of our high town taxes. … We certainly do not believe it would be at all fair, or right, to charge a homeowner for a service which they elect not to use, or never have used.”

The board agreed to keep the hearing open to February “because we have other options we didn’t have the first time,” Mr. Sander said.

The Village Board, which recently decided to move its regular meetings to the third Tuesday of each month instead of the second Tuesday beginning in February, also scheduled a public hearing on changes it may make to mooring laws in North Haven. The hearing is planned for the board’s next meeting on February 19.

“We’re probably going to look at changing ours to be more consistent” with Sag Harbor’s regulations, Mr. Sander said.

He said the village is considering adding a provision to its code to prevent seaplanes from approaching the village within a certain distance of shore, except for homeowners who have waterfront property with a private, accessible dock.

Mr. Sander noted the new language of any modified law the board proposes will be published in this newspaper for residents to read ahead of the February 19 hearing.