As gas-powered leaf blower bans keep being enacted around the country, at least one community is struggling to “get it right,” according to a story published in The Independent, East Hampton, New York. But it’s still not good news for the landscape maintenance contractors in the area.
The article’s writer reports that village officials again tweaked the language of a proposed code amendment curtailing the use of gas-powered leaf blowers in East Hampton Village, causing a delay, at least for now. The proposal would ban the use of gas leaf blowers by commercial landscapers from June 1 to Labor Day.
Mayor Paul Rickenbach says the board wants to get the law right before adopting it. “This is a quality-of-life issue for our residents and that is who we are responsible to,” he reportedly told a handful of landscapers who were at the hearing to state their opposition to the ban.
“We realize we are taking a productive tool out of your hands,” Trustee Arthur Graham said, according to the article. “The residents of the village have told us in no uncertain terms that that is a tool they want taken out of your hands, at least for the summer period.”
The leaf blower prohibition has been paired with another measure requiring commercial landscapers to obtain a special license to work in the village.
Officials agreed to hold off on adopting the laws until another hearing can be held regarding new language that would fine repeat offenders as much as $5,000 but eliminate the possibility of a jail sentence. The hearing will be held on July 31, but village attorney Linda Riley said the laws would not go into effect until next year.
At the hearing, residents reportedly said the ban is needed to preserve tranquility in the village. But most of the landscape business owners who were also present opposed the law as unfair.
“There is a very good green alternative,” resident Daniel Hays is reported to have said. “It’s called a rake and it has been used for years prior to leaf blowers.”
“It seems to me the leaf blowers are just such an invasion on the peacefulness of this village,” added John Cataletto, another village resident. He reportedly also said he understood the need for such equipment in fall and spring cleanups.
The ban does not extend to private homeowners who have their own gas leaf blowers, although their use of the equipment would be limited to the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays and from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekends. The Maidstone Club, a private golf club whose grounds cover more than 200 acres of the village, would also be exempt.
Jim LaGarenne, representing Richard Sperber Landscaping, had concerns about both proposed village laws.
“Charge a fee that makes people have to get it and have enforcement,” he is reported to have commented concerning the proposed landscapers’ license. “If you don’t have the license, the fine has to be substantial.”
However, he opposed the seasonal ban on gas leaf blowers as “totally arbitrary and premature.” “Arbitrary, because there are so many other contractors of various types,” he continued, “and so much other landscaping equipment that makes an equal amount of decibels.”
The story reports LaGarenne as saying that electric leaf blowers don’t hold a charge long enough to be effective and also produce noise just slightly less of it than gas models do. He added that smaller businesses would not be able to afford the cost of buying new gear.
Bill Fox, another commercial landscaper, is reported to have said he would “make do.” He stated that he’s outfitted his crews with about $15,000 worth of electric gear — with mixed results. “The leaf blowers go 20 minutes on a charge,” the story quotes him as saying.
He also pointed out that line and hedge trimmers can run much longer on a battery. But he conceded that both his crews and his customers have had positive responses to the electric tools because they are not as noisy.