Cab driver says trucks on village roads a problem

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For at least one person, landscaping trucks lining the sides of local roads has become a safety issue.

Chip Dayton, who owns the Dayton Taxi in East Hampton, stood up at a Village Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, April 18, and complained about groups of trucks parked up and down residential streets during the spring and summer, which he said makes it difficult for him to do his job as a driver and creates safety problems for all.

“I don’t have a overall solution to this, I just want to raise the point to you that I feel it’s a problem that’s grown,” said Mr. Dayton, who has been driving a cab for two years and owned his own company for four months. “It seems like in the past, it was a pick-up truck with one mower, and now we have these huge operations.”

“There is no question in my mind that a lot of those landscapers feel a sense of entitlement, that they are a big-time operation and they are serving multimillion-dollar homes and that’s the way they want to do it,” he added. Landscapers can fit their vehicles in a driveway, he said, but choose to park in the street, blocking sight lines and creating obstacles.

Mr. Dayton recalled driving on a street in the village last summer as like “going through an obstacle course.” He added that operators of the vehicles often put up cones in the road to guide drivers but argued that the use of the cones makes driving around the trucks even more difficult.

Village Deputy Mayor Barbara Borsack told Mr. Dayton that parking for landscapers’ trucks was an ongoing problem and said that she wished she had a solution.

“The problem is, if they are pulling off onto village property,” Ms. Borsack added, “what they are doing is ruining the edges of village roads, and they are turning them into mud puddles. So in trying to deal with that, we’ve been trying to get them off the edges of the roads, and they’ve been going further into the road. Really, if they could go into the driveway, that would be best.”

The Village Board has previously addressed the issue of landscaper trucks being parked on the shoulders of village streets. In an effort to stop cars and trucks, particularly those used for landscaping, from damaging road shoulders, the Village Board in February 2006 prohibited those who parked along roadsides from damaging the street, grass, or sidewalk. Drivers must park in the driveway of the property owner, whenever possible, and must also take protective measures to prevent damage if they cannot avoid parking on the road shoulder.

Along with drafting the new rule, the village distributed a pamphlet to businesses explaining the code change, and Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. sent a letter to homeowners asking for their cooperation by allowing workers to park in their driveways.

Asked for a comment from Ms. Borsack at the meeting, Village Police Chief Gerard Larsen said his officers tell landscapers to pull into driveways when there is room, but added that “it is hard to catch every one of them.”

An employee of Rhett’s Landscape Design, which is based on Railroad Avenue, said that her company has never gotten a complaint from a resident or a taxi driver about trucks parked on the street. The woman, who would not give her name, added that landscapers can only do so much to avoid parking on the street when they work at someone’s house.

“I don’t know what any landscapers can really do about it,” she said. “You work on somebody’s property, you do have equipment, you do have trucks … You can park only so much in or on someone’s property.”

The village periodically repairs road shoulders that are damaged by vehicles parking on them, according to Village Administrator Larry Cantwell.

Dan Reichl, a code enforcement officer for the village, said last week that when construction crews do park on the shoulder of the road, the village ensures that they repair any damage by refusing to issue a certificate of occupancy to the property owner until any damage is fixed. But noting that landscaping crews are at houses for shorter periods of time and do not do work that requires a CO to be issued, Mr. Reichl said it is more difficult to enforce the law against them.

Ms. Borsack said the village officials would like to address the problem, but said she was unsure of how.

“We’re trying to see what we can do to make it better,” Ms. Borsack said in a phone interview on Friday. “At this point, I don’t know what the answer is.”

“It’s difficult because it involves very legitimate safety concerns and very legitimate concerns with regard to damage to the side of the road,” Mr. Cantwell added in a separate phone interview on Friday.

Mr. Dayton after the meeting on Friday recalled an incident last year when an operator of a truck physically threatened him after he asked the driver to move his vehicle.

“If you can’t drive on Lily Pond Lane because of the landscaping trucks, take Lee Avenue or something,” said Michael O’Sullivan, who owns Amagansett Taxi and East Hampton Taxi, during a phone interview on Friday. “I think this taxi driver had nothing to do this morning,” he said of Mr. Dayton.

Town Police Chief Todd Sarris said on Monday that his department receives some calls about vehicles parked in the roadway and deals with them on a case-by-case basis, but added that he does not see it as a “pervasive” issue.

“We are trying to be understanding of the fact that some of them are rather large trucks in some small areas, and it is impossible for them to pull into some driveways,” Chief Sarris said.

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