Leaf Blowers Create a Stir

Beacon council unsure how to proceed

The Beacon City Council has failed to reach consensus on how, or if, the city should regulate leaf blowers, and a discussion on Monday (May 15) did little to break the logjam. 

The council began considering the issue last year, initially, it seemed, as a companion to the city’s ban on fossil-fuel hookups in new construction, which was approved in March and takes effect Jan. 1. In November, the city’s Conservation Advisory Committee advocated restricting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers as a first phase for retiring lawn equipment powered by fossil fuels, with machinery such as gas lawnmowers to be addressed in later phases. 

Because municipalities are preempted by the federal government from restricting emissions that are generated by engines, the council cannot, for example, single out gas-powered leaf blowers and regulate them to reduce greenhouse gases. 

In March, city attorneys wrote a draft law that would ban any leaf blowers — gas- or electric-powered — from May 15 through the end of September. From Oct. 1 to mid-May, they would be permitted from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays and holidays, and for only two hours, from noon to 2 p.m., on Sundays. 

The proposed law would not apply to municipal employees, who often use leaf blowers to clear sidewalks and other public areas, or on lots greater than an acre in size. 

On Monday, Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair, who introduced the idea in the fall, said he felt the draft legislation was “on the money,” and that seasonal restrictions would be a steppingstone to permanent regulations. Aymar-Blair brought the idea to the council after complaints from his Ward 4 constituents about the noise generated by leaf blowers, and its effects, such as migraine headaches, he said. (Leaf blowers and other lawn equipment are exempted from the city’s noise laws.) 

But City Administrator Chris White said the law, as proposed, would be difficult for police, who are already tasked with investigating noise complaints, to enforce. White said there are only four officers working most shifts; if a fifth is on duty, he or she typically walks Main Street. 

White also noted that he had spent several hours talking to a Beacon resident who owns a landscaping company and feared the law would put him out of business. 

“I don’t think you want to send police to give tickets to low-income workers because they’re using a tool of their trade,” White said. “If you’re going to go after sound, why don’t we go after the jazzed-up cars and the motorcycles that make Main Street almost unwalkable when they go by?”

Mayor Lee Kyriacou said he was concerned that the law, as drafted, would over-regulate city residents. He and Council Member George Mansfield both expressed doubt about restricting residents’ ability to use the equipment while exempting city employees. 

White and Aymar-Blair then briefly sparred over whether it is practical to consider a law at all. 

Aymar-Blair argued that the restrictions, preceded by a public-education campaign, would attempt to change people’s habits, rather than “blasting everybody with tickets.” However, White said he had not heard “a single complaint about a leaf blower” since his hire in late 2020. “But I have heard a lot of complaints about traffic, and I’d rather assign the limited police time that we have to things that are probably more important to more people,” he said. 

Having made no progress, the council agreed to revisit the discussion during an upcoming workshop. 

5 thoughts on “Leaf Blowers Create a Stir

  1. Forget the carbon monoxide, smog-forming nitrous oxides, and carcinogenic hydrocarbons that two-stroke leaf-blowers emit into the air. Well, don’t forget, but realize too that they damage biodiversity. “Fallen leaves provide protection for overwintering insects and the egg sacs of others. Leaf blowers, whether electric or gasoline-powered, dislodge the leaf litter that is so essential to insect life — the insect life that in turn is so essential to birds and other wildlife,” (New York Times Nov. 25, 2021) and humans.

  2. The Beacon City Council should stop worrying about nonsense and regulating every little thing we do. When the mower blows grass on the sidewalk or street, I’ll leave the mess where it is: less work. If there aren’t any complaints, why is this even an issue? [via Facebook]

  3. Soon all of these restrictions and laws are going to drive people who value their freedoms out of Beacon and all those condos and houses selling for a fortune are going to be empty. We’ll be back to the Beacon we had 10 years ago. [via Facebook]

  4. Keep government out of everyone’s personal life. If you’re going to go after leaf blowers, you should also go after the trains, cars, planes, dwellings of all types, phones, street lights, firetrucks, ambulances, sirens, buses, humans, power lines and so on. [via Facebook]

  5. Some noises are unavoidable — cars, planes, autos – some not. Leaf blower noise is discretionary: it can be done at any time or not at all. It makes sense that annual fall cleanup is more efficiently done with a blower, however, fall cleanup does not mean every other weekend, as it does at Dockside. I have always managed my groundskeeping with a simple rake: an arrangement of metal strips attached to a pole. That tool is now obsolete for groundskeepers. In absence of a rake, a pole with straw bound to it — “broom” — would do the same work noiselessly. Here at Dockside, some business owners prefer to operate their leaf-blowers in the early weekend mornings, rousing those looking for a bit of sleep. That sort of abuse does not fall under the category of free-speech, but toxic neighbors doing only what suits them. Limiting the hours of use of the offending implement would be a fair and sane alternative to the weekly Leaf Blower OK Corral.

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