Sag Harbor Village Considers Partial Ban on Leaf Blowers

Village officials are considering restrictions on the use of leaf blowers. file photo

Ornery over the incessant whine of gas leaf blowers at your neighbor’s house? Expect some relief from the Sag Harbor Village Board, which on Tuesday, took a step toward banning the use of the popular tools by commercial and private landscapers alike from May 20 to September 20.
The measure, which is based on a similar law recently passed in Southampton Village, would allow gas blowers to be used the rest of the year, but only from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. The law would prohibit their use on Sundays or federal and state holidays.
It would also put an end to the sight – and sound – of phalanxes of landscapers fanning out across a lawn to drive off every last leaf. Henceforth, only one gas blower would be allowed on lots smaller than a half acre, which includes the vast majority of properties in the village. On lots that are larger than an acre, a maximum of two gas blowers could be used.
The board closed a hearing on the new restrictions over the misgivings of Trustee Thomas Gardella and will likely vote on adoption next month.
The proposed measure received an enthusiastic endorsement from Anthony Vermandois, an architect who lives on Union Street and said he often had to wear noise-canceling headphones inside his home to escape the noise of leaf blowers.
Mr. Vermandois said when he bought his house, which is near Division Street, he expected to have to put up with traffic noise. “But nothing compares to leaf blowers,” he said. “I understand this is seasonal, but just having a few months of the year to be able to walk around outside and not hear leaf blowers is great.”
He said the main problem with blowers is that the noise carries much farther than other noises. “I don’t hear traffic noises on Main Street, which is about 1,000 feet away as the crow flies,” he said. “I can hear leaf blowers from Main Street, though.”
Of concerns the restrictions would impose a burden on commercial landscapers, Mr. Vermandois said, “I have worked in the construction industry my entire adult life, and every few years we have a new code that comes out or a new regulation that impacts our business. Welcome to my world. You are going to have to adapt.”
Mr. Gardella had raised the concern about requiring commercial landscaping firms to buy more expensive battery-powered equipment, but he also said the law could have unintentional consequences on homeowners.
“It’s all about having respect and not disturbing your neighbors,” he said. “I don’t like the fact that it is singling out gas leaf blowers. That’s all.”
He added that if the village wanted to combat noise, it might also have to look at banning chain saws and lawn mowers. “What is the next thing that is going to come up? Where do we stop?” he asked.
Trustee James Larocca echoed the concern about the impact on residents. “A lot of working people do their own lawn work, and they necessarily do it around their work schedules,” he said. “We want to be very careful if we do something like this not to further complicate their lives in our efforts to do something about this noise problem.”
But Trustees Aidan Corish and Bob Plumb said the new restrictions would be a step in the right direction. “It would allow people more quiet enjoyment of the outdoors during the summer months,” Mr. Corish said.
Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy said with neighboring villages adopting similar laws, landscaping companies were already beginning to adapt.
Jeff Peters, the owner of JCP Landscaping in Sag Harbor, tended to agree.
“The dates you picked, as far as I’m concerned, from May 19 to September 19 will be fine,” he said noting that lighter powered electric equipment could be used during the summer months to clean up grass clippings. While battery equipment is much more expensive now, he held out hope prices would decline as it becomes more widely used.
But Mr. Peters added enforcement would be key. “As far as homeowners, I don’t know how you are going to stop that,” he said. “That’s something you are going to have to work on.”