As Greenburgh aims to regulate the use of leaf blowers, residents are divided on the direction the Town Board should take as some want officials to find a middle ground within the proposal while others desire something more stringent.
As many communities throughout Westchester County are placing bans on gas-powered lawn equipment, the Greenburgh Town Board is taking a different approach with a law that would allow leaf blowers to be used at certain times of the year. But while most agree with the idea of the proposal, many residents that spoke during the March 10 public hearing think it’s not strict enough.
“This equipment really does present quality of life issues, and it’s not just for residents but also for the employees of landscaping firms themselves,” resident Kathy Evers said, adding that she couldn’t use her office for most of October due to the abundance of noise. “I do feel the amendment as proposed does not do enough to resolve these issues.”
Evers suggested the town reduce the period in which leaf blowers would be allowed for use in the spring and fall seasons and to restrict use to one day of the weekend. Additionally, she recommended the town only allow electric leaf blowers.
The proposed law would only allow blowers – both gas and electric – to be used from March 1 to May 15 and October 15 to December 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 legal holidays.
All types of blowers would be prohibited the remainder of the year, according to the proposed law.
Violators would be subject to a $50 fine for the first offense, $200 for the second infraction and $500 for the third and any subsequent offenses. If the owner or renter of the property where the violation occurs is not the person operating the blower, the property owner or renter would also be subject to a separate fine in the same amount, the proposal states.
The law would be enforced by the Greenburgh Police Department, the Department of Community Development & Conservation, and the Building Department.
In the event of a weather emergency, like a hurricane or nor’easter, the town would have the authority to suspend the use of any blowers for any amount of time. Any directives would be posted on the town website and communicated to the police department and community development and conservation department.
Exemptions to the law would include debris clean-up resulting from town authorized tree removal and within two feet of outdoor equipment such as air conditioning compressors, generators and other outdoor machinery and related piping exposed above ground. Any work conducted by the Department of Public Works affecting public safety on roadways, walkways, and road islands would also be exempt.
That work would require prior authorization for extenuating circumstances, such as special events, equipment malfunctions, equipment shortages and personnel shortages.
Use of blowers for activities of the Department of Parks & Recreation would be exempt. Authorization would also be mandated, according to the proposed law.
While one resident who stood in opposition called the town hypocritical for exempting itself from the law despite the quality-of-life concerns, resident Peter Brown requested officials find a common ground that would appease the entire community. He said the proposal as written doesn’t balance the needs of both property owners and residents.
“As a homeowner I just want to blow clippings off my driveway and then back onto my grass and get the benefits of that grass and I think an outright ban of doing something that simple, I just can’t accept that,” Brown said. “There has to be some middle ground somewhere. I’m just sensitive to everyone’s concerns.”
While officials have been receiving complaints from residents over the years regarding the sound and contamination issues stemming from the use of leaf blowers, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said the issue came to a head at the height of the pandemic when the noise level escalated with many people stuck at home.
The Conservation Advisory Committee was then asked to review the issue with the goal of amending a section of the towns noise code to regulate the use of leaf blowers throughout the year to curtail sound and air pollution. Officials attested the purpose of the proposed amendment is to limit involuntary exposure to noise and air-borne particulates.
“A lot of people over the last year have been working at home and people are going crazy hearing the noise,” Feiner said. “We asked the Conservation Advisory Council to review what other communities have been doing to come up with a proposed law.”
If passed, Greenburgh would join about a dozen area communities that have either passed similar laws or are attempting to regulate lawn 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 Croton-on-Hudson, the Village Board is mulling a proposal that would outlaw gas-powered blowers year-round in a phased approach by 2023.
Pleasantville officials are also discussing a 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.
Greenburgh officials will keep the public hearing open and plan to revisit the proposal at their April 14 Town Board meeting.