A Builder’s Perspective on New Rock Chipping Law
By Stanislav Kotyza
I am an immigrant from communist Czechoslovakia. I arrived at JFK in 1984 with one suitcase in pursuit of the American dream. I worked every job available to me to make ends meet. Now I have a house I built myself in Rye, where I live and work with my wife and where we raised our daughters. For 30 years it has been my honor to be a builder in this town. But today I am saddened at the state of Rye and am reminded of the Czechoslovakia I left behind.
Today in Rye, I see local government officials instituting detrimental and dangerous laws. Most recently, the City Council has amended the “Mechanical Rock Excavation Permit” provision of the City of Rye Code (§ 88-16(1)), effectively limiting the days for rock chipping or drilling from 35 to 11. The law states 15 days, but the Rye Building Department clarified that when counting these days, one must exclude Saturday and Sunday, thus leaving only 11 days for excavation. As an experienced builder in Rye, I know that to drill a large basement for a children’s playroom, one needs at least 30 days.
This law will also prevent Rye builders from drilling and blasting to install geothermal heating and cooling systems. New York homeowners who install these systems are eligible for federal and state tax credits and additional funds from utility providers. In addition to its environmental benefits, the heating and cooling costs of these systems are 50 percent lower than more traditional ones. Furthermore, in light of the city’s moratorium on installing gas lines, the only way we will be able to heat our homes in the future without drilling will be oil or electric systems or wood-burning stoves.
This law may appear well-intentioned, as a way to limit noise pollution from loud construction sites. However, it really reflects that these officials didn’t do their homework. They could have easily created a blanket ban on traditional rock removal techniques, which produce unbearable noise. Instead, they banned rock chipping in general, not taking into account new quieter alternative technologies.
For example, last year, I used a two-step rock-splitting technique, invented in Denmark. First, I used a hand drill to make many small holes. Next, I used a special hydraulic splitter to break through the rock. This is a safer, quieter, cheaper, and more productive alternative to traditional drilling methods. And it can be easily found at any United Rentals Store. In fact, this technology effectively eliminates the need for the city council’s law in the first place. With this technology builders and new homeowners can: <Vlk se nažere a koza bude celá>. [English: Have one’s cake and eat it too.]
The current law only protects homeowners with large basements in Rye. Meanwhile, older residents who intend to sell their homes with smaller basements will end up losing out. No builder will want to buy a home they cannot chip. New homeowners won’t want to buy homes here that they cannot expand. We already see this with more people choosing to buy homes in Greenwich rather than in Rye because of the restrictions on building pools present here and absent in Greenwich. Aggregated, these laws will lead home prices to stagnate which, in effect, will devalue those homes due to rising inflation. Property taxes will not increase to compensate for inflation, meaning less money for the city, less money for schools, and less money for infrastructure.
As I approach retirement, I feel so indebted to the city of Rye. This town has given me so much, and I have built a wonderful life here. But I remember Czechoslovakia in the mid-80s, where I watched local chapters of the communist party institute ill-informed policies that ended up hurting the people they tried to help. There is no need to institute a rule that hurts the elderly, new homeowners, and general property values for no good reason. Getting rid of this policy will help keep Rye the beautiful town I have always known it to be.