Mount Kisco will consider the regulation of leaf blowers and other landscaping equipment after a plan proposed last week would limit months and hours of operation and eventually phase out a certain type of engine.
In a presentation by Village Trustee Peter Grunthal and resident Lilian Burgler, the initial proposal would ban all gas-powered equipment during the summer months, allow the gas-powered machinery to be used mainly during business hours and for part of the day on Saturday and prohibit the use of two-stroke engines after a phase-out period of several years.
The proposal also includes lawn mowers, chainsaws and weedwhackers.
“Coming back here and putting down roots, I really want my children to be able to play outside, go for a walk on a Sunday in the fall and smell the leaves and enjoy the outdoors,” Burlger said of her motivation for working on the initiative. “I want to be able to work from home and not hear this extreme stressor that’s constantly distracting.”
She said the majority of municipalities in Westchester now have leaf blower restrictions in place, which puts Mount Kisco behind many of its neighbors. Mount Kisco is the latest community in the area to pursue legislation. In recent years, Bedford and New Castle are among local towns to have enacted regulations, passing varying sets of restrictions in hopes of limiting noise and reducing carbon emissions. Other places, such as Pleasantville, Greenburgh and Croton-on-Hudson, are also weighing limits on their use.
One goal behind the legislation would be to discourage the use of the two-stroke machines and encourage more residents to opt for the machines with four-stroke engines or electric blowers, Grunthal said. Leaf blowers with two-stroke engines average at least 80 decibels, compared to about 70 decibels for four-stroke engines, which do not burn oil, and 60 decibels for electric blowers.
Under the plan introduced last week, all types of gas-powered machines would be allowed from Oct. 1 through Apr. 30. They would be operated Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Their use for the remainder of Saturday and Sunday would be prohibited.
Use of two-stroke machines, which include oil along with gas that makes them cause greater pollution, would no longer be permissible for residents after Dec. 31, 2024. The village government and schools would have to phase out their use by Dec. 31, 2026.
Additionally, no residential property could have more than two machines operating at one time.
Grunthal said that with Mount Kisco having many residential properties smaller than most other communities in northern Westchester, it’s imperative that the village places limits on the noise-producing and unhealthy equipment. The village’s generally smaller lots should also make the use of electric leaf blowers more practical than in towns with much larger properties.
“I’m introducing it because the noise from leaf blowers is basically intolerable,” Grunthal said. “If you’re sitting at home, not only in your yard but inside your home with the doors and windows shut, you can still hear these machines and you can hear them at such a high volume that they can distract you from everything else.”
Fines for the first offense would be $25, increasing sharply to $500 for the second offense and $1,000 for the third and each subsequent offense, Burgler said.
Other village officials agreed that there should be regulations enacted to curtail the noise and air pollution created by gas-powered landscaping equipment, but suggested revisions to the proposal presented last week.
“I think the legislation is a wonderful idea and very well-needed,” said Trustee David Squirrell. “I do think it needs to be tweaked here and there, and I fully support the exception for the individual homeowner who is using a lawn mower.”
Mayor Gina Picinich said she realizes a need to regulate leaf blowers in particular, but would like to see some modifications to hours and dates. Homeowners should have a greater chance to care for their property when they get home from work in the late afternoon and for more hours on the weekend. She also said the May 1 to Sept. 30 prohibition could start later.
“That limits an individual property owner’s ability to do their yard work after 5 when they get home from work or anytime they choose to on a Saturday or Sunday,” Picinich said.
Other suggestions came from Village Manager Ed Brancati who said the board could consider tying the use of the equipment to the village’s noise ordinance. It may also need to make a distinction for the various condominium and co-op complexes that use commercial landscapers.
Village Attorney Whitney Singleton recommended to the board to keep the law as simple as possible. If there are too many exceptions and distinctions between the types of engines, for example, enforcement would be difficult.
“I think restricting or even prohibiting gas-powered leaf blowers, something very clean, is appropriate and enforceable,” Singleton said.
Grunthal and Burgler said they would work on the proposal and return to the board with revisions at a future meeting.