If public sentiment rules the day in local politics, Sagaponack Village is likely on its way to becoming the second South Fork village to turn down the volume on construction work on weekends.
Three dozen Sagaponack residents, most of them part-time second-home owners, on Saturday morning implored the village’s five elected officials to bar construction entirely on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With Sundays already off limits for construction work, they asked for an additional 12 to 14 days, depending on the calendar, of peace and quiet a year.
Four years into an explosion of development throughout the tiny seaside village, many shared tales of grumbling diesel truck engines waking them at 6:30 a.m. on the first morning of their precious and fleeting free time, and of the roar of a construction site making backyards all but unusable for much of the day.
“The trucks line up at 6:40 to start work at 7 a.m.,” said Keri Findley, whose family has a house on Erica’s Lane. “It’s just gotten kind of silly—to not be able to bring your kids out here and have the kind of quiet lifestyle we’re used to.”
The sentiment that discomfort caused to homeowners seemed to far outweigh whatever inconvenience would be caused to the trade business was nearly unanimous among the residents. When another homeowner, Nina Whitman, recalled having neighbors begin construction on a new house and that she pleaded with them to instruct the crews not to work on Saturday, a request that was immediately honored, the audience burst into applause.
“The proposed imposition is reasonable,” said Joost Schiereck. “It’s 11 days a year. Most sites shut down around 4 p.m. so there is a lot of unused time during the week.”
Sagaponack currently allows construction work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and not at all on Sunday. The Saturday restrictions, Mayor Donald Louchheim pointed out to residents, are already the most stringent in the region except for tiny West Hampton Dunes Village, which allows only indoor commercial work on Saturdays.
Village officials have not proposed actual legislation regarding any changes to the construction schedule, and they offered no opinions of their own about the idea on Saturday. However, they acknowledged on Saturday morning that the meeting had been called with an eye toward banning both commercial construction—homeowners would still be allowed to do their own work unfettered—and the use of heavy equipment for landscaping or other property work on Saturdays. Mayor Donald Louchheim said that in addition to voices at Saturday’s meeting, the village has received 53 letters, the overwhelming majority of which supported the construction ban.
Builder Michael Davis, a Sagaponack resident and also its most prolific developer, said that the drive to work on Saturdays is fed by the demands of those who would soon be among Sagaponack’s residents.
“I stand here wearing both hats: I’m sympathetic to those who hear the noise and to the builders who are trying to get their work done,” he said. “Owners want their houses completed within a year so Saturdays are really, really important. It’s key to the workers, it’s key to the employers and it’s key to the owners.”
Mr. Davis suggested that, at the very least, restrictions similar to those in West Hampton Dunes would be more appropriate so that indoor tradesmen like painters and electricians could still work on Saturdays.
He also nodded to the substantial portion of the village’s budget that construction fees contribute—about 60 percent, Mayor Louchheim acknowledged.
“Are you suggesting that if we had a ban on Saturdays there would be fewer building permits?” the mayor mused. “I doubt we’ll kill it. We were told our zoning would kill it.”
One landscaping company owner, noting that his heavier vehicles and equipment would potentially be caught in the prohibition too, pointed out that his industry was highly weather dependent and that Saturday work was an important fallback when hit with unexpected delays.
The village’s first mayor, Bill Tillotsen, said that he is frequently the target of noise complaints from neighbors when he goes to work at the crack of morning’s twilight—4 a.m. in early summer—tilling his farm fields. He said he was in favor of the construction limitation, all the same, as long as it would not be a bridge that others would use to call for controls on the sort of industry and activities that made Sagaponack such a sought-after place in which to build homes.
Another developer and real estate broker, Alan Schnurman, said that it was the blue-collar construction workers whom the Saturday prohibition would hurt the most, robbing them of billable hours over the course of the week.
But resident Michael Weisberg graphed the mathematics of that supposition differently.
“If it takes 1,000 man hours to build a house, if we restrict Saturday work they’re still going to be employed for 1,000 man hours, just over a slightly longer period of time,” he said. “And talk of the recession, it’s hard to hear that without a smirk. It’s a tremendous bull market for builders here right now.”