Pleasantville residents debated whether the village should pursue the regulation of leaf blowers during a live-streamed public forum last Thursday.
In August, village trustees viewed a presentation by the Pleasantville Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) about the noise and environmental and health dangers caused by leaf blowers and alternatives to maintaining lawns and property.
About 70 village residents registered for the two-and-half-hour forum, offering comments and asking questions. Mayor Peter Scherer said the forum was one of a planned series of discussions on the issue.
“There is no proposed legislation before the Village Board,” Scherer said. “We’ve had more comments in the recent months because more folks are working from home, kids are at home and there are concerns about noise, impacts on seasonal allergies and respiratory conditions.”
Some residents were critical of any possible regulations while others cited potential harmful impacts. CAC Chair Helen Meurer said leaf blowers disturb the environment and disrupt the ecosystem.
“They scour off the top soil-spreading pollens,” she said. “Gas leaf blowers are dirty machines that create greenhouse gases.”
Others were vehemently opposed to regulation and highlighted the difficulty of enforcement.
“If one neighbor confronts another neighbor using a leaf blower or if a neighbor is going after a landscaper using a leaf blower, that could escalate and involve the police, which is the last thing we want,” said resident Joe O’Neill. “It’s a rabbit hole to nowhere.”
Steve Crocitto echoed those sentiments while charging that “the CAC document that the village is circulating is full of half-truths and inadequacies.”
“Any ban would be unenforceable. Besides, we already have sound laws,” he said.
Quality-of-life issues were raised several times during the discussion. Pleasantville has been known for being a quiet community but is often disrupted by the use of leaf blowers, especially by landscaping companies, regulation proponents stated.
“There is an army of landscapers that come to my neighborhood two and three times a week and work at the five houses around me,” said resident Jeff Kerper. “It drives me indoors. Last Monday it was a cacophony of leaf blowers for about four hours. You can’t hear yourself think.”
While landscaping companies were criticized for generating excessive noise, longtime Pleasantville resident Mark DeFabio defended his 30-year landscape company, MG’s Lawn Green Inc.
“Having leaves and landscape debris around attracts rodents, mildew, fungus and disease,” DeFabio said. “The only way to clean a yard efficiently and cost-effectively is with (gas-powered) leaf blowers because labor is our biggest expense.”
He said that during the summer his company minimizes the use of blowers by changing routes. In recent years, most lawn equipment has been upgraded to reduce noise and emissions.
“We’re not using the old blowers, and you’re lucky if you can get two seasons out of the new backpack blowers,” DeFabio said.
Some residents who have been working from home said they are forced to rearrange schedules and times to communicate virtually because of leaf blower use.
“Concentration from the standpoint of working at home is a major issue for me,” said resident Brad Serlin. “It’s an issue for me and it’s highly distracting to kids who are trying to focus.”
To reduce noise impact, a local ordinance proposed by the CAC would request minimizing high-throttle use and encourage landscapers and lawn care companies to use of four-stroke or electric leaf blowers. Other CAC suggestions included raking rather than blowing leaves and limiting use of blowers to the fall.
“I can’t use an electric blower to maintain my property where I have 12 maple trees,” said Brett Bisgrove, adding he didn’t have time to rake. “I work and commute because I am an essential worker. I’m trying to get through the day.”
Some residents who have purchased electric leaf blowers said they weren’t as effective as the gas-powered machines. Resident Ed Elliott said he bought a battery-powered lawn mower for $800 and the battery lasts for 45 minutes.
Others felt the equipment shouldn’t be regulated based on season.
“Leaves don’t fall on a schedule,” said Steve Harrigan. “We’ve had storms in July and August and there’s no certainty of when that’s going to happen.”
Steven Kavee, chairman of the Mount Pleasant Conservation Advisory Council, suggested taking a different approach to yard maintenance.
“There may be a paradigm shift in ways to address landscaping by using ground cover and grass clippings,” Kavee said. “This may take some time, and along with legislation, we have to educate about alternatives that might reduce the need for blowing leaves.”
Kavee said the community has an obligation to cooperate.
“As private citizens and municipal governments we need to find a pathway to bring this planet to a place going forward for coming generations,” he said.
Village officials plan to hold additional forums and encouraged residents to continue to submit questions and comments.
“It’s important to have this dialogue and give everyone a chance to express their concerns,” said Trustee Paul Alvarez. “A big part of this is trying to work together to find a compromise.”