We’ve all been there.
You just put the baby down for a nap. Or you’ve settled down for a conference call in your home office. Or you’re hanging out in your yard or your living room.
Then the leaf blowers descend like a biblical plague. If you thought you’d fled the noise of city living for the bucolic peace of the suburbs, you may not have been prepared for this aural assault.
On Tuesday night, Maplewood Township Committee members discussed passing a resolution for a pilot program this summer to ban commercial lawn service companies from using leaf blowers between June 1 and August 31.
The resolution would include all commercial leaf blowers — both gas and electric.
In an ordinance passed in 2003 (old timers, who remembers CALM — Citizens Against Loud Machines?), the town legislated that the “use of leaf blowers with a decibel rating of greater than 65 dB(a) by commercial lawn maintenance businesses shall be prohibited between the dates of May 1st thru October 15th of each year.”
However, according to town officials and residents, that ordinance has been difficult and cumbersome to enforce and has been, therefore, ineffective.
On Tuesday night, several residents 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. One resident in particular talked about how difficult it is to run her home-based business on the days when multiple landscaping companies descend upon her neighborhood. (According to the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce, home-based business are a large and growing sector in the town, making up 40-50% of current Chamber membership.)
These residents were happy to see the topic of a ban included in the Township Committee’s discussion items for the evening: “I want to congratulate you on moving toward this first step and looking forward to the discussion,” said one resident.
Maplewood Township Health Officer Bob Roe also spoke at the meeting, saying that he is in favor of “certainly no using leaf blowers during the summer months and if allowed in spring and fall for no more than a month.”
“It really is a detriment to health,” said Roe.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams started the discussion by noting that the Township Committee had “heard from many residents.”
Adams reported that she and Committeeman Greg Lembrich are forming a subcommittee to work long term on evaluating the entire landscaper ordinance and to potentially draft a partner ordinance on pesticide use. However, she said, they didn’t want to lose an entire summer to leaf blower noise while crafting a long-term fix.
“I’m interested in making the quality of life better in the summer months to keep our neighborhoods safe, dust free and quiet,” said Adams.
Adams said that, in the summer, landscapers are using blowers solely to clear cut grass off of lawns and blow grass and dirt into the street — which is illegal. “The grass is better left on the grass … if it’s cut every week,” said Adams. “There’s no need for them to blow it.” She said that if a resident is interested in removing the grass clippings, landscapers can accomplish that with a rake “but I doubt that would be an issue.”
Lembrich echoed Adams comments: “We will be looking at a more comprehensive ordinance long term, but this is opportunity for lawn companies to adjust and react before we do anything permanent … but will also give some relief during the summer months to our residents.”
Mayor Vic DeLuca said he would support an ordinance that did not disallow residents from using personal leaf blowers.
Adams and Lembrich said they were open to that.
“I think the main culprits are the gas leaf blowers and also the lawn service companies with multiple leaf blowers,” said Lembrich.
“I would only want the landscapers,” said DeLuca, who added, “We shouldn’t vote on this tonight…. We should give people time to react.”
Township Committee members agreed to have Town Counsel Roger Desiderio draft a resolution for hearing and vote on May 17.
Committeewoman India Larrier agreed. “We want to proactively reach out to lawn maintenance companies to invite them to come to plead their case.”
DeLuca added, “We may find that there are some residents who don’t agree with this too. They may want their lawns and sidewalks to be pristine.”