Tonight, the Maplewood Township Committee voted unanimously (5-0) to approve an ordinance to ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers by commercial landscapers between May 15 and Sept. 30 (see the full ordinance below).
Township Committee members — particularly Mayor Victor De Luca, Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams and Committee person Greg Lembrich — voiced exasperation with landscapers whom they say have not complied with a previous ordinance to deal with the noise levels over the past 14 years.
They also expressed frustration with the representation by James Nathenson in a letter published by Village Green that there was no proof of the detrimental effects of leaf blowers use as currently employed. Adams called Nathenson’s claims untrue, saying he could have written the letter before serving on the subcommittee researching the ordinance as she found that the letter disregarded testimony given at multiple meetings related to environmental, health and noise impacts of the blowers.
DeLuca said that “we are unable to measure the financial and economic impact” but said that evidence of environmental impacts could not be denied.
Adams also called out landscapers on “best practices,” saying that the use of the blowers was blowing both topsoil and pesticides off of lawns and into the streets, negatively impacting the lawns as well as the environment. She also recalled catching landscapers in the act of violating the pilot ban last summer, only to find them moving their operation a few blocks away and violating the ban again, even after being warned.
Many commercial landscapers spoke at the meeting and some did not ingratiate themselves with the TC with their remarks. Although some offered suggestions such an exemption for the use leaf blowers in cleaning up after tree removal, others were more confrontational. One landscaper said that it was on the Township to enforce the previous law. Lembrich shot back that it was on landscapers to “obey the law.”
When asked why the Township Committee thought this ordinance would be more successful than the last, Lembrich pointed to the much higher fines.
A lawyer with the New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association presented the TC with signed letters from 50 people opposing the ban and seemed to hint at possible legal action, saying, “This ordinance goes far beyond what is permissible.”
Private residents who came out to comment on the ordinance were divided in their support for the ordinance; however, more residents who commented spoke in support of the ordinance than did not. One resident said that landscapers would just reset lawnmowers to do the work of blowers, circumventing the ordinance. Another resident, the mother of an infant and toddler, spoke of having to seal her house and run the air conditioner on days when landscapers worked in her neighborhood.
See a portion of Adams comments here:
Village Green will continue to follow this story.