By Mara Certic
Members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee seemed somewhat encouraged by a Southampton Town Planning Board meeting when plans for the much maligned, proposed CVS pharmacy were discussed for the first time.
Peter Wilson, a member of the CAC who was at the planning board meeting on Thursday, August 14, discussed the proceedings with his fellow CAC members at their monthly meeting on Monday, August 25. “Essentially, it was totally process-oriented,” he said. The meeting was delayed by a full hour, he said, but he got the impression that the board “wanted to see this through properly and give it their due course,” he said.
CVS Caremark and BNB Ventures IV are seeking a special exception permit to build a pharmacy on a vacant lot at the corner of Montauk Highway and the Sag Harbor-Bridgehampton Turnpike. The plan has angered Bridgehampton residents who believe that the pharmacy would cause a traffic nightmare at an already dangerous intersection. “We’re hoping the next decision will go our way. This is somewhat of a win for us,” said CAC co-chairwoman Nancy Walter-Yvertes.
The Bridgehampton CAC announced that members of Save Bridgehampton Main Street will hold another protest at the proposed CVS site this Saturday, August 30, at 10 a.m.
Sally Spanburgh, chairperson of the Southampton Town Landmarks and Historic Districts Board, was invited to speak to the CAC about legislation that was recently passed in Southampton that provides an incentive for owners of historic houses to preserve them.
The new law allows homeowners who allow their houses to be designated landmarks to add a guest house or carriage house to their property. In exchange the town would extinguish one of its development credits. Ms. Spanburgh showed pictures of each of the 46 properties in Bridgehampton that would be “technically eligible” to build new structures under the new law, but explained that even some of those would pictured would not necessarily meet all of the requirements.
In other action, the CAC unanimously passed a resolution on Monday asking the town to ban gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer season.
Bridgehampton resident Steve Jones has become somewhat obsessed by the excessive noise that the landscaping equipment creates without appropriate regulation, he said. “The landscape convoys that stream into our town every morning have turned our residential areas into industrial zones,” Mr. Jones said.
The town’s noise ordinance was adopted in 1983 and has not been amended in the past 20 years. The code states that during the day, airborne noises should be limited to 65 decibels, with some exceptions—none of which are for leaf blowers.
Many gas powered leaf blowers create noise of up to 100 decibels, creating winds of 200 miles per hour. Mr. Jones invited two doctors, and residents of Huntington, to address the Bridgehampton CAC on some of the other side effects of the gas-powered leaf blowers.
Doctors Lucy Weinstein and Bonnie Sager are members of Huntington CALM (Citizens Appeal for Leaf blower Moderation) who have been trying to restrict the use of the equipment in their town. According to Dr. Sager, 16 towns in Westchester County have restricted their use, the country Israel has banned them and the City of Toronto now hands out $5,000 fines to leaf blower operators.
Not only is the noise and air pollution harmful, but also according to the doctors, the leaf blowers throw up topsoil and nutrients, which results in the need for more fertilizers. Often, Dr. Sager said, lawns then become fertilizer-dependent, which, in turn, increases the nitrogen content in groundwater, potentially causing dangerous algal blooms.
The CAC members and the doctors discussed alternatives, mentioning electric and lithium-powered leaf blowers. Jeff Peters, who owns JCP Landscaping in Sag Harbor, uses gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer, he said. He has been using new, quieter leaf blowers in his business and added that a ban would result in higher bills for customers. A ban on leaf blowers would add 20 to 25 minutes of work per lawn, he estimated. Electric leaf blowers, he said, “have no power,” and require noisy generators themselves.
Mr. Jones said he had been in contact with Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender about introducing some sort of legislation that would ban the gas-powered leaf blowers during the summer. Mr. Bender could not be reached for comment by the time of this paper’s publication.