Village Fine-Tunes Leaf Blower Law

Independent/Stephen J. Kotz

The effort to curtail the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in East Hampton Village has been delayed once again as village officials again tweaked the language of a proposed code amendment on Friday, June 21.

Mayor Paul Rickenbach said the board wanted to get the law right before adopting it. “This is a quality-of-life issue for our residents and that is who we are responsible to,” the mayor told a handful of landscapers who were on hand to oppose the law.

“We realize we are taking a productive tool out of your hands,” added Trustee Arthur Graham, of the proposal that would ban the use of gas leaf blowers by commercial landscapers from June 1 to Labor Day. “The residents of the village have told us in no uncertain terms that that is a tool they want taken out of your hands, at least for the summer period.”

The village board has paired the leaf blower prohibition with another measure requiring commercial landscapers to obtain a village license to work in the village.

This week, it agreed to hold off on adopting the laws until another hearing can be held on new language increasing fines to as much as $5000 for repeat offenders, but eliminating the possibility of a jail sentence, for violating the law. The hearing will be held on July 31, but village attorney Linda Riley said the laws would not go into effect until next year.

Landscape business owners on Friday either opposed the law as unfair or said they would live with it, while residents said the leaf blower ban was needed to preserve tranquility in the village.

“There is a very good green alternative,” said one of those residents, Daniel Hays in support of the restrictions. “It’s called a rake and it has been used for years prior to leaf blowers.”

“It seems to me the leaf blowers are just such an invasion on the peacefulness of this village,” added John Cataletto, another village resident, who nonetheless said he understood the need for the equipment to be used for fall and spring cleanups.

The ban does not extend to private homeowners who have their own gas leaf blowers, although their use of the equipment would be limited to the hours of 8 AM to 6 PM weekdays and from 8 AM to 3 PM on weekends.

Independent/Stephen J. Kotz

Nor will it extend to the Maidstone Club, the private golf club whose grounds cover more than 200 acres, or the village itself, although officials said the village would make a good-faith effort to comply with the restrictions.

Jim LaGarenne, representing Richard Sperber Landscaping, had concerns about both proposed village laws.

“Charge a fee that makes people have to get it and have enforcement,” he said of the proposed landscapers’ license. “If you don’t have the license, the fine has to be substantial.”

He opposed the seasonal ban on gas leaf blowers as “totally arbitrary and premature.”

“Arbitrary because there are so many other contractors of various types,” he continued, “so much other landscaping equipment that makes an equal amount of decibels.”

He said electric leaf blowers don’t hold a charge long enough to be effective and said they only produce slightly less noise than gas ones. He added that smaller businesses would not be able to afford the cost of buying the new gear.

Bill Fox, another commercial landscaper, said he would make do.

He said he had outfitted his crews with about $15,000 worth of electric gear to mixed results. “The leaf blowers go 20 minutes on a charge,” he said, noting that line trimmers and hedge trimmers run much longer. He added that both his crews and his customers have had positive responses because they are not as noisy.

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