Residents, Landscapers Speak Out on Maplewood Leaf Blower Ban

by The Village Green
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Few recent municipal issues have caused as much discussion and debate as Maplewood’s pilot summer leaf blower ban. Read more about the ban here. (Also check out one columnists’ take on the controversy.)

At last Tuesday’s Township Committee meeting, a number of residents and local landscapers spoke about whether they thought the ban should be continued and/or expanded.

“There were a lot of speakers who were on one side of the issue or the other,” said Deputy Mayor Nancy Adams, who spearheaded the ban and views leaf blowers as a public health issue. “The landscapers who spoke did not seem to have a really strong opposition, but rather understood the problem and wanted to help with a solution.”

One Courter Ave. resident wondered how his landscapers would be able to clear his 90′ driveway each week without using a leaf blower. Mayor Vic DeLuca countered by asking how the resident might put a price on the noise and dust his neighbors must contend with.

Several residents said they were not able to enjoy their own yards or patios or porches because of the noise, even from far away. Others, including the Director of the NJ Association of Landscapers, pointed out the unfairness of banning leaf blowers only for landscapers and said a ban should impact residents and other contractors as well.

Those opposed to the ban were concerned that their landscapers would raise prices for their services or leave the property messy, said Adams, while those in favor “want peace and quiet back and don’t want to breathe in fossil fuels or other particulate matter.”

Adams said her main concerns are health and environmental. “The EPA’s emissions standards make the 2-stroke engines illegal for motorcycles now, but they can’t regulate these leaf blowers the same way that vehicles for the roads are, so although there are standards, they are not enforced and are really ignored.”

Currently, a subcommittee is researching the issue and interviewing local commercial landscapers to guide the Township Committee as it decides on any potential future ban or ordinance changes, Adams said.

Adams’ full statement from the October 18 Township Committee meeting is attached below.

Tonight we are seeking input from residents in particular about the pilot ban of leaf blowers this past summer.

Originally, I advocated for this leaf blower ban because, as someone who works from home, I was weary of the interruption in my day by the proliferation of leaf blowers used by landscapers. I literally could not escape the noise at some point during every day of the week; some days were worse than others, like yesterday when I was writing my introduction to this discussion. I am not exaggerating at all when I say that from 9AM until 3:45, I spent time closing and reopening doors and windows of my house (on a beautiful day, I might add) in order to try to muffle the sound. It never completely disappears. Some of these were from landscapers across the street or down the road, others were a block or two away. Through months of reading and researching, I understand why I can hear a leaf blower from 2 blocks away but not a lawn mower or week whacker. The 2-stroke engines of the leaf blowers operate at a lower frequency that penetrates doors, windows and walls and CANNOT be completely blocked out.

The environmental and the health issues associated with these 2-stroke engines, which, by the way have been disallowed on motorcycles for 2 plus decades because of the emissions issues, are real concerns over and above the annoyance factor or the interruption of peace and quiet in town that residents are reasonable to expect.

While I have heard and read that this issue is unimportant, that there are more important things the TC should be working on, I believe this is a public health issue first and foremost. That said, we are compiling research and direction from a subcommittee that has been interviewing area commercial landscapers and doing research to give to the Township Committee in the coming months to provide background and relevant information to help the TC make a decision any future bans or ordinance changes in regard to these machines.

While the TC does not have a desire to hurt existing businesses, it is also, in my opinion more importantly responsible for providing our residents with a clean and environmentally healthy place to live.

What would be nice to hear tonight instead of the obvious comments from commercial landscapers that you don’t want them banned, would be some solutions that would make us all happier. The issue of the ban came up in large part because for years now the landscaping companies have ignored our law, one that they helped craft and negotiate. Even after the ban was lifted on September 1st, the existing 65 db level law was wantonly ignored and the more powerful, dirtier leaf blowers were used by most landscapers instead. So, I’d like to hear your suggestions, especially those of you who obey the law, to get your fellow landscapers to follow the law and thus make the playing field even for everyone. I’d like to hear from residents who are opposed to a summer ban, why you are and why your contractor using a leaf blower is important to you, why do you care what tools are used by someone doing a service for you. (Btw, I should add that although you may hear differently, statistics in places where leaf blowers have been banned show that the cost for landscaping services have not risen and customer satisfaction is high.) From those residents in favor of the ban, I’d like to hear why and what is important to you on this issue.

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