A proposal that would have outlawed gas-powered leaf blowers year-round by 2023 in Croton-on-Hudson will be pushed back and undergo a complete revision as officials look to narrow the scope of the law.
While the original proposal – drafted by the village’s Conservation Advisory Council – sought a three-year phased-in approach to reaching a complete ban and a shift to electric leaf blowers, the Board of Trustees is now looking to take a more measured approach by tackling noise pollution rather than instituting an outright ban.
The proposal, which had yet to be passed, was scheduled to go into effect in May, with a seasonal ban on gas-powered leaf blowers lasting through October, and legislation prohibiting its use from January to October in 2022. In 2023, the village would have instituted a year-round ban, with ongoing year-round education.
However, during the Mar. 8 Village Board work session, officials concluded that the proposal required more work and elected not to rush the process. They agreed to spend the remainder of this year tweaking the proposal to implement in 2022.
“We can’t avoid the fact that we’re still living under a pandemic and we have to take that very seriously, and the outpouring of concern that we’ve had, whether it’s individuals, seniors or minority-owned businesses, I think reflects the fact that we’re in a very difficult time and that raises the question of whether a significant environmental regulation is appropriate right now,” Trustee Len Simon said. “I think we need some more work to do on this.”
Mayor Brian Pugh added he was leery of passing a law assuming that the progress of technology, including electric and battery-powered lawn equipment, would be easily accessible to residents and the village by 2023.
Pugh suggested the village refer to neighboring municipalities that have passed similar laws, with a seasonal restriction on gas-powered leaf blowers between June 1 and Sept. 1. He also recommended altering how the village would enforce the law, explaining he wants to minimize conflict between residents and the police department.
The current proposal would see violators subject to a $250 fine for the first offense, $500 for the second infraction and $1,000 for the third and any subsequent offenses. Convictions would be deemed a violation. Fines would be levied against the person operating the leaf blower, the party who employed the person in violation and the property owner.
Pugh said the village should consider having a police officer or code enforcement officer identify property owners who violate the law, with a summons then mailed out.
“What I don’t want is a direct confrontation between a police officer or an agent of the village and a citizen,” Pugh said. “I think the way to do that is to have liability on the property owner. It’s the responsibility of the property owner.”
Pugh added the current exceptions included in the proposal should also be revised, asserting it would be hypocritical to exempt the village or a private entity from the law.
According to the proposal, the village could still permit the use of gas- or electric-powered blowers after a storm at any time of the year should it be needed. The Hudson National Golf Club would be exempt from the proposed law.
Additionally, officials said they would be open to altering the hours leaf blowers can be used within the village. Pugh said the village would benefit from something more consistent.
Currently, the operation of leaf blowers or other motorized lawn or garden equipment is allowed Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., excluding holidays, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Pugh added that while there is environmental justification to switch to electric-powered equipment, the village’s counsel has advised the board to narrowly tailor the law around noise instead of focusing on the impacts gas-powered leaf blowers have on the environment.
“It’s about minimizing disruption to people’s living, creating a nuisance and quality-of-life issues,” Pugh said. “My feeling also is that it’s better for everyone for it to be simple and straightforward.”
In crafting a law, the village would join over a dozen other Westchester communities that have either passed similar laws or are attempting to impose regulations on the equipment.
Last September, New Castle officials unanimously approved a law prohibiting the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from June 1 through Sept. 30. In Greenburgh, the Town Board is mulling a proposal that would only allow blowers – both gas and electric – to be used from Mar. 1 to May 15 and October through Dec. 15.
During those specified periods, use of blowers would be permitted between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. All types of blowers would be prohibited the remainder of the year, according to Greenburgh’s proposed law.
Pleasantville officials are also discussing a leaf blower ban to limit noise and air pollution and reduce health impacts. The proposed ordinance would allow leaf blowers to be used only in spring for two weeks and for a three-week period in fall. The weeks where they could be used would depend on the weather. Operation would be allowed after 10 a.m. on Saturday and after noon on Sunday.