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Huntington considers change to residential yard waste policy

Huntington Town officials say the proposal would not

Huntington Town officials say the proposal would not affect residents who bag their own yard waste. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Take the trash with you — that’s the message the Huntington Town Board wants to send to landscape company owners.

The board will hold a public hearing to consider amending town code to update language to require for-hire landscaping and lawn maintenance services to immediately remove waste they collect instead of leaving it for the town to later pick up.

Town officials say the change will minimize the increase in yard waste disposal costs to the town, improve yard waste collection efficiency and remove collection bottlenecks. But a landscapers advocacy group says the change could cost homeowners.

Landscaping companies are allowed to leave a limited number of bagged leaves at the curb of homes for the town to pick up and dispose. Homeowners pay for some debris removal as part of their property taxes.

“This new requirement will not affect homeowners who bag their own leaves,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said. “What we are proposing for landscaping companies mirrors our provision in the Town Code that requires home improvement contractors remove and dispose of waste generated by their work.”

 Lupinacci says the change is in response to a new state regulation that has caused an “exorbitant” increase in yard waste collection costs for the town.

According to town officials, it collects and processes approximately 14,000 tons of yard waste annually, with approximately 7,800 tons collected during peak leaf season. The total budget for yard waste processing and disposal increased 93 percent in 2019, to $1.4 million after new state regulatory requirements for groundwater monitoring at composting and yard waste disposal facilities took effect.

Town officials said landscaping and lawn maintenance companies have been documented overloading the curb during the spring and fall cleanup season, leaving upward of 100 to 200 full bags of yard waste at a single residential property for curbside collection by the town. Each ton of yard waste diverted from the curb will save the town $100, town officials said.

But John Ratto, incoming president for the Long Island Nursery and Landscape Association, said in the end the homeowner will bear the cost.

"To our knowledge, most professional lawn and landscaping contractors remove the lawn waste as part of their service,” he said. “Those who don’t would now have to pass the removal expense along to the homeowner. It appears that the ones who will be penalized is the homeowner. If the leaves are collected by the homeowner, the Town of Huntington will pick them up free of charge. If a professional collects those very same leaves the homeowner will pay to have them removed.”

Lupinacci said if town inspectors see landscapers performing services they will notify them of their obligation to remove the yard waste, and if they don't they could issue the landscaping contractor a summons.

"We have been looking at registering landscaping companies, which will help with the enforcement aspect," Lupinacci said.

The public hearing will be held during the regular town board meeting at 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at Town Hall, 100 Main St.