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Neighborhood: Scarsdale Should OK Generator Noise

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – The battle shaping up between the West Quaker Ridge Neighborhood Association and the Village of Scarsdale is aesthetics and quiet vs. emergency power sources.

A recent meeting held by the neighborhood association drew more than 40 people to hear presentations by Roger Mariusso of AMHAC, a standby generator provider, and Salvatore Pace of Pace Electric, which installs electrical service for generators.

Also on hand was Scarsdale Village Trustee Bob Steves, who answered questions about the village code's rules governing standby generators. Steves said, in the past year, about 100 permits had been pulled for generators, despite restrictive regulations that make getting final approval difficult.

Marissau gave a rundown of what is available for standby generators, focusing on the noise level. Village code requires standby generators to register no more than 55 decibels at the nearest property line. Residential standby generators range from a low of 63 decibels to a high of 74.5. He described 55 decibels as about the level of two people standing 3 feet apart having a normal conversation.

"When the 55 decibel figure was put in," Steves said, "there was no big push to put in generators.

But Pace said weather patterns have changed that. "They've become more popular over the last two or three years because of the amount of storms. Every town is adjusting."

Another point of contention was the setback requirement. The code states that standby generators, which are permanent installations, must be located inside a building or in a property's backyard at least 20 feet from the nearest property line, with a fence and/or landscaped barrier to hide it from neighboring properties. Thomas Monahan, president and owner of Yost & Campbell, which sells generators, said that the setback works with larger properties but precludes many others from having a standby power generator.

Steves said getting the rules changed could be done, but would take at least "a couple of months," as it would require study and advertised public hearings. "Anything can be looked at," he said. "But the board is not going to be looking at something unless there is compelling reason."

One audience member asked if rules could be suspended during emergencies to allow higher decibel levels. Village Manager Alfred Gatta said in an e-mail to The Daily Scarsdale that it was unlikely.

"The village board considered many aspects of the question of permitting generators in residential neighborhoods and heard from many residents, contractors and manufacturers on the multitude of issues surrounding the issue. The local law that was finally adopted was a result of the village board attempting to address all of the issues, but as you witnessed from the discussion not all. Complaints are received in regard to the noise levels of generators, whether in an emergency or not. General noise complaints are received often whether it be music, a party, an air conditioner, a generator, a radio, use of power tolls, construction sounds, or whatever."

Restrictions do not cover portable generators, Steves said, which are often louder and less environmentally friendly than standby generators. And while the natural gas or propane-powered standby generators automatically start when electric power goes out, making them more attractive to homeowners who may be out of town when storms hit, gasoline-fired portables require a manual start, something that concerns Gatta.

"I do not like the use of portable generators because many people will not have the training and wherewithal to operate the units," he said. "This will raise the risk for those that operate the units."

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