The East Hampton, N.Y., Village Board plans to limit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers to begin to address an ongoing “quality-of-life issue,” as Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. described it at a Village Board meeting on Friday.
For several months, the board, with members Richard Lawler and Barbara Borsack spearheading the effort, has been discussing limiting hours and seasonally prohibiting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers, in addition to requiring professional landscapers to register annually for a fee.
The use of gas-powered leaf blowers would be prohibited from June 1 until Labor Day, except at golf clubs such as the Maidstone Club, a private country club that encompasses about 200 acres of open land.
Although gas-powered leaf blowers will be banned during the summer months for residents and landscapers, they could be used again after Labor Day, until May 31, but no earlier than 8 a.m. and no later than 6 p.m. on any weekday; no earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 3 p.m. on Saturdays; and only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday or any federal holiday.
If the law is adopted, landscapers would also be required to submit an annual registration form provided by the village and pay a fee of $200, in addition to a fee of $10 per sticker for each registered landscaping vehicle.
At Friday’s public hearings—one on the permit registration and fees, and one on outlawing gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer months—Jim LaGarenne of Richard Sperber Landscaping explained that the Town of East Hampton currently has a contractor’s license requirement, but many contractors traveling to East Hampton from up-island, and even some locally, have never purchased the license.
“There is no enforcement,” Mr. LaGarenne said, comparing it to the possible landscape permitting regulations in the village. “Why even get the license?” he asked the board. He said the village should enforce the regulation of permits with a substantial fine for violators, adding that, without enforcement, “it means nothing.”
“I don’t want to put a burden on the police department, but someone needs to make sure that the people are getting the licenses,” he said.
Mr. Rickenbach added that police and code enforcement officers will strenuously enforce the new leaf blower and landscaper permit legislation.
Board member Arthur Graham added that there is a substantial fine if operating without a permit, or disobeying the new law—as high as $2,500 to $5,000 for a third offense.
A previous version of the law made it so repeat offenders could serve 15 days in jail, but the board thought that was too severe and removed that portion of the legislation.
Regarding the leaf blower legislation, Mr. LaGarenne said he and the company he works for seriously oppose the proposed law at this time. He said although they appreciate that the board is trying to limit noise, it seems arbitrary and premature. He added that there are other types of contractors and landscaping tools that create a similar amount of noise.
“To pick out a leaf blower at this time seems to be very arbitrary,” Mr. LaGarenne said, noting that golf courses would be exempt. “It should pertain to everybody, not just the landscapers and commercial landscaping.”
Mr. LaGarenne explained that he’s tried electric-powered equipment, and said that, after laying out almost $10,000 for electric-powered leaf blowers and pruners, he found that the batteries last only about half an hour at a time, whereas his crews often go out for 10 to 12 hours a day.
Mr. LaGarenne also touched on the price point of the newer battery-powered landscaping equipment, explaining that smaller companies likely can’t afford to spend $10,000 to $20,000 just on small equipment such as lawn mowers and leaf blowers.
“They just don’t work at this point,” he said of the battery-powered blowers. “To pick just the leaf blowers while contractors have little generators going and radios blasting at some sites, it seems arbitrary.”
On the other hand, Daniel Hays, an East Hampton Village resident, congratulated the board for codifying a proposed law to restrict the noise of leaf blowers, which he called “incredibly annoying.”
“I find that the leaf blower noise is particularly heavy during the week when the estates that have lawn services are being serviced,” he said. “For someone who lives 24/7 in this village, it’s a constant annoyance.”
Said John Cataletto, another East Hampton village resident: “We have three houses behind us that are constantly using leaf blowers. I know when they have to cut hedges—that’s another story—but it seems to me that the leaf blowers are such an invasion on the peacefulness of this village.”
Mr. Cataletto said that he understands during the fall and spring when leaf blowers are much needed, but said that, during the summer, leaves shouldn’t be as much of an issue.
“Maybe some hand-raking is okay,” he said. “The noise is a constant problem in the village.”
Bill Fox, owner of Bill Fox Grounds Maintenance, has been attending meetings about the new legislation for months. He said his customers have been responding well to his company’s use of quieter equipment and that he has had some success with the transition to electric-powered equipment he’s spent $15,000 on thus far.
“Come fall, you can’t really do the work without a little more assisting,” he said, however.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, Mr. Lawler said the law wasn’t something the board is going into lightly, adding that “not everyone is going to be happy.”
Mr. Graham said he empathized with the landscapers. “We realize we’re taking a productivity tool out of your hands, but the residents of the village have told us in no uncertain terms that this is a tool they want taken out for at least the summer.”
The board plans to further tweak the proposed legislation, and hold another public hearing, before adopting the law, which would go into effect on January 1, 2020.
“This is a quality-of-life issue for our residents, and that’s who we’re responsible for,” Mr. Rickenbach said. “You have to look at what’s best for the major portion of the constituents you represent.”