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A lot of noise about noise: Village talks landscaping/construction ordinance


A public hearing on a proposed ordinance restricting construction, landscaping and related noise on the weekends in the Village of Dering Harbor was cut short by Mayor Tim Hogue on Saturday, August 15 when a lawyer demanded to be heard on a different topic, not related to the local law.

Mr. Hogue closed the hearing, — leaving some of the more than two dozen people attending disgruntled — but before he did, and later during the regular trustees’ meeting, several points were made about the proposed law.

The mayor referred to previous residents’ complaints regarding noise, particularly caused by landscaping equipment, on weekends. The law would prohibit that and construction work from 5 p.m. on Saturday to 8 a.m. on Monday. Two residents suggested that hours of operation on Saturday also be reduced or eliminated entirely.

Another resident questioned how serious the complaints were and several objected to the definition of “persons” liable for the penalties.

Mr. Hogue said he was anxious to get a law on the books immediately but it could be “tweaked” at the September meeting. To pass a law and then tweak it, isn’t good governance, an audience member said.

The Town of Shelter Island has noise restrictions in its code, but only for excessive decibel levels. There’s nothing in the code banning construction and landscaping and the noise they produce on particular days or times.

Councilman Peter Reich noted that properties in Shorewood ban outside construction during the summer months as a covenant, but the town doesn’t enforce covenants. The Town Board has, Mar. Reich added, put restrictions for times of day and weekends on special exception permits for several large construction projects it has approved.

Many municipalities across the country have certain restricted days and hours for landscaping and construction.

During the public hearing in Dering Harbor, Linda Margolin, a partner in Braden Margolin Besunder of Islandia, spoke up, saying that the law would not stand up in court if challenged because it contained no objective definition of “unreasonably loud noise.”

But she then approached the Board of Trustees’ table with plans and correspondence related to two properties on Shore Road, owned by Brad Goldfarb/Alfredo Paredes and Martha Baker and the on-going question of village boundaries on those two properties.

Mr. Hogue ruled the subject out of order for the public hearing and when Ms. Margolin refused to take her seat and insisted on continuing, he declared, with the support of the trustees, that he was closing the hearing due to the “disruptive nature” of the proceedings.

In the board discussion that followed, it was agreed not to pass the law as written but to adopt a resolution prohibiting “unusually loud and disturbing noise,” caused by construction and landscaping on Sundays — without including any language about penalties. The wording of the law and penalties will be refined for presentation at the September meeting. In the meantime, residents and contractors will be informed about the resolution.

The question about hedges was another contentious issue on the board’s agenda. One aspect — the question of whether a hedge that Brad Goldfarb and Alfredo Paredes want to build on the perimeter of their Shore Road home is on village or their property — has been under discussion for many months.

Mr. Goldfarb spoke to this issue, saying it was also a concern about safety for their young daughter. The village had offered them an evergreen easement, he said, leaving the property to the owners in perpetuity, which would only make sense if in fact the village owned the property, he said — a fact that the couple has been challenging.

At that point, their attorney, Ms. Margolin, asked to speak to the topic. She said that documents in 1932 and 1943 and a title search conclusively showed that the village did not own the property. She suggested that the village’s institutional knowledge had gotten lost in the intervening 80 years. She left the board copies of her research and an amended village map filed in 1943.

Mr. Hogue said that the trustees had looked at all available records since 1916 and had provided the residents and their attorney with as much information as possible. We have looked at this all before, he said, but “we will look at this again.”

Ms. Margolin said that they could bring a lawsuit against the village but would hope that the village would consult its own records and issue quit claim deeds to her two clients, Goldfarb/Paredes and Ms. Baker.

Although Ms. Baker was in the audience, she did not take part in the discussion.

Hedges on the waterside of Shore Road were also on the agenda. Mr. Hogue said some residents had voluntarily agreed to reduce the height of their hedges to 4 feet. He said he would send a letter to all the Shore Road residents about the issue and also about installing more speed bumps, which have already been delivered, in response to the safety concerns raised at July’s meeting.

Mr. Hogue noted that the meeting had run 45 minutes into an Architectural Review Board meeting, scheduled to discuss the Dering Woods Lane LLC building application, and adjourned the board until its next regularly scheduled meeting on September 19.