After a lengthy discussion involving residents and landscapers pleading both sides of the issue, the Maplewood Township Committee voted unanimously to pass a resolution for a pilot program to ban commercial lawn service companies from using leaf blowers between June 1 and August 31, 2016.
The resolution would include all commercial leaf blowers — both gas and electric. In 2003, the town legislated that the use of leaf blowers with a decibel rating of greater than 65 dB was prohibited between the dates of May 1 to October 15 of each year. However, according to town officials and residents, that ordinance has been difficult and cumbersome to enforce and has been, therefore, ineffective.
At the end of the pilot, the township will evaluate the program and discuss whether to institute it again going forward.
On Tuesday night, residents once again spoke of the impact of the commercial leaf blowers, saying that they both ruined quality of life in the town and posed a health hazard, blowing allergens and dust.
The majority of residents who spoke were in favor of the ban; however, one man who said he was disabled expressed concern that homeowners would bear the burden if lawn services increased their prices, and another said he was “incredulous” the issue was even being considered, and called it an “overreach” on the town’s part.
Meanwhile, landscapers and representatives of landscaper associations said the ban would unfairly target them and make it more difficult to run their businesses. They said manually raking and sweeping was grueling work and would take more time and possibly additional cost. “We work hard; our profession is not easy,” said one.
Some questioned the issue of how loud the blowers were compared to things such as jackhammers, lawn mowers and crying babies. In terms of pollution, one cited research that shows brooms actually release more particulate matter into the air than do blowers.
One suggested a better alternative would be to apply certain time restrictions to commercial blowing.
Maplewood Green Team’s Tracy Woods noted that she had found over 90 other municipalities that had instituted similar bans. Sheila Baker-Gujral, also a Green Team member, said that because something had historically been done a certain way was not an excuse for not changing. She cited the example of Wooley Fuel Co., which started as a coal business and then evolved over time.
Some speakers were sympathetic to the landscapers’ claims but suggested they use the ban as an opportunity to market environmentally friendly lawn options at an additional cost. “The market in this town is very clear.”
Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams said she frequently saw examples of a “lack of courtesy” on landscapers’ part, and cited examples such as running blowers at full throttle when half would be sufficient, blowing debris onto adjacent properties or into the street (which is prohibited by the town), using blowers within ten feet of door or windows, and using multiple blowers at one time.
Mayor Vic DeLuca noted that the town DPW would also be following the ban.