New Paltz considers loosening lawn cutting requirement

The aesthetic of lawns, enshrined in Village of New Paltz code, is being revisited. A public hearing will be held on November 13. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The aesthetic of lawns, enshrined in Village of New Paltz code, is being revisited because maintaining this non-food crop uses hundreds of gallons of water per day per household, and also results in more fertilizer polluting bodies like the Wallkill River. Village code, which limits the grass to three inches in height, tends to be enforced selectively, and technically makes it illegal to create a pollinator meadow in one’s yard.

Deputy mayor KT Tobin would like the law changed to match the state minimum of ten inches, as anything taller would trigger that higher law. This is in keeping with a growing movement to abandon the grass aesthetic for something more natural and less deleterious in an age of changing climate. There are concerns that longer grass could harbor ticks, the diseases from which are already a serious concern in the region, but Tobin said that based on what’s she’s discovered, “those fears are unfounded.”

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Others have weighed in on this idea, and favorably. Shade Tree commissioners reportedly support meadow over lawn because it increases plant diversity and reduces dependence on chemicals and watering. Trustee Michele Zipp relayed an anecdote about research indicating that the main negative reaction to longer grass — the aesthetic sensibilities of neighbors — is usually resolved by simply putting out a sign explaining that it’s a choice to support pollinators, not the result of neglect. Zipp admitted she’d initially been concerned about ticks, but the more she’s learned the more she agrees with Tobin that it’s a non-issue.

William Wheeler Murray is not ready to dismiss the tick concern, noting that longer grass is “shadier and moister” and thus provides a good home for the bloodsucking arachnids that can carry Lyme and other diseases. He said he’d “rather not see an increase in ticks in the village.”

Mayor Tim Rogers plans to get a sign, because he doesn’t mow. In addition to the water and chemical use which impacts the sewer treatment plant in the village, most lawns are mowed by gasoline-powered equipment that contribute to the pollutants amplifying climate change, which in New Paltz is projected to mean more intense storms and a gradual increase in average temperatures all year round. Winter would be effectively eliminated, which for example would strike a death knell locally for milkweed, the only plant on which monarch butterflies breed.

A public hearing on the change was scheduled for November 13, with Rogers noting that the change wouldn’t prevent someone who prefers to mow from doing so.

There are 4 comments

  1. Up The Village

    We wrote that in an e-mail here months ago?
    We also wrote in that e-mail that State law allows a village board, of its own volition, put a referendum in the voting booth to dissolve the village without having to get a petition from the voters to do so.
    $55,000 a year salary?

  2. Steve Greenfield

    Hundreds of gallons of water, per property, per day? Huh? Cite that. Hardly anyone in the Village waters their lawns. And even for rare instances when some people do, “hundreds of gallons?” “Per day?” You live in the Village. Do you pour hundreds of gallons of water, per day, on your lawn?

    And “crop?” Something isn’t a crop just because it grows, even if its growth is attended to by humans. People attend to their rose bushes — they’re not crops. A crop is something that’s harvested for a purpose. A non-food crop is something like switch grass or corn grown to make ethanol. Someone’s lawn is not a crop. Sheesh. “Hundreds of gallons, per property, per day?” Explain that. That was your opening sentence, the frame within which you want readers to consider the issue the rest of the article covers, and it’s completely made up.

    1. Square Bob Wet Pants

      In the lower parking lot of Morello Park, well diggers put in a pipe with the expectation of getting water. Didn’t work.
      So they moved over to the Community Center side of the wetlands where the heron nest and sunk two more well pipes, no, three more well pipes, one of which is now connect to white pvc pipe to drain the water from the cement swales which were put in to drain the water away from the $500-$600 thousand dollar homes that are now in what was once a green forest, land that was annexed from the town into the village decades ago.
      So yes, at least one joint municipal endeavor is pumping a lot of water, but it’s not for lawns, it’s to save real property values. It also keeps storm water out of the sewers, particularly the pumping station by Village Arms, the pumper right down by 32N, and the gravity sewers of Bonticuecuecue.
      As for the water supply of the village, it is by law that one must be hooked up to it, even if you have a well. You can use all the well water you want for free, and why not, except it’s as polluted as the water they use down at the community gardens by the river.
      There’s a lot of money in selling water by the Village to SUNY, villagers and townies, all at different rates, and now I recall that out of the 75 municipalities that draw water from the NYC aqueduct, only one, New Paltz, refused to put in a back up system with a 50 year notice. This is their cheesy way out.
      Don’t ask, don’t tell.

  3. Adam and Eve

    Chipmunks, shrews, red squirrels, gray squirrels, grey squirrels, salamanders, toads, frogs, deer, raccoon, possum, skunks, hawks,water snake, downy woodpeckers, dilapidated woodpeckers, catbirds, doves, cardinals, bluejays, rabbit, and butterflies from monarchs to the never-seen-before will all live at your place too, if you like that sort of thing. We look at our neighbors’ yards, full of chemicals and one inch high grass, and wouldn’t even let the dog pee there or sniff about there. And when the grass doesn’t get cut, you get natural flowers to identify instead of the “cultured”kind. It’s almost like Eden.

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