by Stacey Altherr
April 24, 2008
The sedate village of Head of the Harbor might get a lot quieter soon.
The village plans to hold a public hearing on a new ordinance to limit the use of leaf blowers, both in duration and time of day.
The new ordinance would restrict the hours of operation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., allowing only two hours of use per property lot on weekdays, and one hour use on Saturdays. No use would be allowed on Sundays.
Exceptions would be made following a “major storm,” when leaf blowers could be used for three hours on each of two consecutive days – but not Sundays.
Village officials said they proposed the law after complaints from residents in the tony village, where most homes sit on an acre or more of property.
“It’s similar to the all-terrain vehicles, where somebody does something thoughtless and careless, and it finally irritates a person,” said Anthony Tohill, the village attorney.
Most communities have noise decibel limits in their laws, but they reference all types of noise – including music, for instance. It is less common to ban a specific piece of equipment. Leaf blowers, however, have gotten a particularly bad rap because the noise can be very irritating.
“They sound like a dental drill gone berserk,” said Ted Rueter from Noise Free America, a Wisconsin-based organization opposed to noise pollution.
Dozens of suburban towns and villages in other parts of the country have banned gas-powered leaf blowers altogether. In California, a swell of opposition has prompted communities such as Berkeley, Beverly Hills and Claremont, as well as the City of Los Angeles, to prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
Many other communities that ban the gas-powered models allow the less-polluting and quieter electric leaf blowers, or have restrictions similar to those proposed for Head of the Harbor.
“Lots of communities, especially in the suburbs, are leaf-blower hell,” Rueter said. “They are so into their immaculate lawns and making everything perfect. When did a leaf become Public Enemy No. 1?”
In Aspen, Colo., an ordinance enacted in 2003 that banned gas-powered leaf blowers has had mixed success, according to Jannette Whitcomb, environmental health program coordinator.
“We have been doing enforcement for several years, and we are still catching them,” said Whitcomb of the violators. She said the restrictions proposed in Head of the Harbor are a “good first step” that might be hard to enforce because of the difficulty of proving whether someone has exceeded the time limit.
The public hearing in Head of the Harbor will be 7 p.m. May 21 at village hall.