Irvington Moves to Muffle Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

by Barrett Seaman 

leaf blower landscaping power equipment leaf clean upHomeowners, many of them members of the newly formed Irvington Activists coalition, packed the trustee meeting room for the June 5th meeting to urge the board to tighten a proposal that would outlaw the use of gas-powered blowers except during the March 15-to-May 15 and September 15-to-December 15 spring and fall cleanup seasons.

Many thought the dates of the ban should be extended; others argued that the exceptions for large properties, condominium complexes and country clubs were too generous, while others asked for limits on the number of machines operating simultaneously. Residents described armies of men (“storm troopers” one woman called them) moving through neighborhoods, chasing debris for an hour or more at a stretch, children forced to wear earphones to protect their hearing from decibel levels in the three-figure range and loss of concentration among those trying to work from home.

Much of the community ire was directed at the large landscaping companies with contracts to cover whole blocks or neighborhoods. Complainants stated that their crews typically used three or four blowers at a time, creating a din that made a mockery of suburban tranquility.

Neighboring villages already have restrictions on gas-powered blowers. Sleepy Hollow bars their use from October 1 through the Friday of Memorial Day weekend of the following year between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., Saturdays and holidays; and noon and 2 p.m., Sundays.”

Tarrytown’s ordinance prohibits them from June 15 through September 15 of each year and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays during the period September 16 through June 14, with exceptions for multi-family homes.

At Irvington’s June 5 meeting, Patrick Colantuono, manager of Those Guys Landscaping, predicted that if the restrictions passed, “costs would go way up” because of the additional time required to do the job without the powerful blowers. You’re kind of putting a noose on landscapers.”

Other landscapers noted that electric-powered blowers do not have the heft to do a sufficient job—especially during the heavy fall foliage months. Tim Downey, a contractor from Hastings, which has one of the oldest and most restrictive laws on blowers in the rivertowns, contended that the fault lays not so much with the machines as with the culture of the operators.

David Zweibel, representing the Irvington Activists, said his group was “in favor of moving forward with this ordinance as you have it,” in part to avoid a required new round of public hearings. As such, it is likely that in July, the board will enact a ban on gas-powered blowers only (there are no restrictions on electric-powered devices) with the following key stipulations:

  • They may be used from March 15 through June 1 and from September 15 through December 15, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holidays;
  • Owners of one- and two-family properties may use a single blower once a week for no more than 30 minutes during the same hours;
  • Golf and tennis and municipal employees may use them but not within 100 feet of a residence; multi-family complexes may use them until December 31, 2018, after which restrictions will be revisited;
  • No walk-behind blowers may be used on less than half-an-acre;
  • No more than two such devices can be used simultaneously;
  • All machines must meet EPA standards for emissions and noise levels;
  • Violators will be subject to fines ranging from $50 for a first offense to $250 for subsequent offenses.

The board will later take up separate legislation requiring that commercial users register with the village.

Near the end of the June 17 discussion, Mayor Brian Smith concluded: “I think we have succeeded in making no one happy with this bill.”

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