An effort by the Sag Harbor Village Board to restrict the use of gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer sputtered to a stop on Wednesday, February 26, when board members said they could not reach a consensus on the wording of the new law.
Instead, after a 20-minute discussion, the board agreed to bag the idea altogether and go back to the drawing board.
In early January, the board seemed ready to join neighboring communities in restricting the use of the noisy equipment when it held a hearing on a proposal to ban gas-powered blowers from May 20 to September 20.
When the board revisited the matter in February, residents rose to say the law would be unfair and that limits on the number of gas blowers that could be used on any one property the rest of the year would simply prolong the time neighbors would be bothered by noise.
Two board members, Thomas Gardella and James Larocca, expressed reservations about the law’s impacts on residents who do their own lawn work.
This week, Mr. Gardella said he could not support the law as written, arguing that electric or battery-powered blowers are just as bothersome as gas ones and suggesting that if the board is interested in reducing noise in the village, it needs a whole new approach.
Plus, he added, it would be a waste of time for police to be required to respond to noise complaints, only to find people using electric or battery-powered equipment.
Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy supported the law as fair. “We are saying there is really no reason that you have to have a leaf blower, and particularly a high-powered leaf blower, to blow during the summer months,” she said. “You are really doing something a broom can do.”
Mr. Larocca, like Mr. Gardella, said he supported the idea of reducing noise in the village, but added that he had “struggled to see it from the prospective of working Sag Harbor families” who do their own yard work.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, you can use a broom,’ but I don’t feel that Big Brother-ish about this,” Mr. Larocca said. “I don’t think we should be telling people things like that.” He asked whether private citizens could be exempted from the law.
Trustee Aiden Corish also sought revisions. “There was a good case made the last time we discussed this that if you were only allowed to have one person on a piece of property, it is going to take three hours, as opposed to having three people there and it’s done in an hour,” he said. “Noise is noise. I think it is the duration.”
Steve Williams, a resident of Milton Avenue, said he supported restrictions on the hours when leaf blowers could be used but objected to the fines proposed. “This really gets to be sticky,” he said. “I think a thousand dollars or 15 days in jail is a little excessive for running something an hour or two early.”
Anthony Vermandois, who enthusiastically supported the ban at earlier meetings, suggested that the village has a noise ordinance, based on decibel levels, that is currently unenforceable.
At the mayor’s suggestion, Mr. Larocca and Mr. Gardella said they would work with Village Attorney Denise Schoen to revise the law.
Ferry Proposal Runs Aground
A plan put forth last month by the Peconic Jitney to bring back passenger ferry service between Sag Harbor and Greenport ran into a shoal of opposition.
The company, a spin-off of the Hampton Jitney, has proposed the seasonal operation of the ferry, which ran on a trial basis in 2012.
Trustee Corish said there had been a major change to the village waterfront in the interim: a multimillion-dollar renovation of Long Wharf to make it more pedestrian friendly.
“I love the idea, except I don’t think Long Wharf, as it is being re-imagined, is an appropriate place for the ferry to land,” he said.
As part of that renovation, parking spaces will be removed and replaced with a deck, benches and access for people to fish. “If that becomes a de facto departure lounge for the ferry, I think that takes away from the people of the village who are paying for this,” Mr. Corish said. “I don’t want to be a downer on the ferry. I just don’t think Long Wharf is an appropriate place.”
Jeff Peters, a former member of the Harbor Committee, also opposed allowing the ferry to dock at the wharf, citing the village’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, which calls for the pier to be kept open and unobstructed by boats so people can enjoy the vistas and use it for recreation.
“When the village was hurting for money, they decided to put boats all the way around Long Wharf,” he said, “and, technically, in the LWRP, you can’t do that.”
Mr. Williams also objected to the idea, saying the village was a much more crowded place than it was when a ferry used to bring in tourists from Connecticut to the village. “That was nice in the ’70s and ’80s, when there was no one in town,” he said. Now, the village is facing traffic, parking, and even pedestrian overload, he said, adding the village faced the possibility of losing its charm for residents and visitors alike if it did not make a stronger effort to control development.
The mayor said she would inform the ferry company of the board’s concerns and ask if it wanted to revise its plans.