Pleasantville is considering a local ordinance regulating the use of leaf blowers to curtail noise and air pollution and limit health impacts, the latest municipality in the county to contemplate such a move.
Last week, the Village Board listened to a presentation from Conservation Advisory Council member Andrew Reinmann detailing the multiple dangers of using the machines.
“Leaf blowers come with all sorts of controversy,” Reinmann said. “What we’ve tried to do is put together a presentation laying out the different environmental and health implications.”
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. No end time was mentioned during the Aug. 10 presentation.
The ordinance would request users to minimize high-throttle use to lessen noise pollution, require landscapers and lawn care companies to use equipment meeting current EPA standards and encourage use of four-stroke or electric leaf blowers. Procedures for enforcement would be developed.
Reinmann said as a homeowner he has been bothered by the constant noise.
“There’s no way to escape it,” he said. “I work from home all the time now but before the pandemic (when I’d work at home) I’d find myself going to The Black Cow (coffee shop) to get away from the noise, which permeated inside my house. There’s also the level of unpredictability; you don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
Noise pollution and poor air quality caused by leaf blowers used on residential properties are of heightened concern because many people are working from home during the pandemic.
Then there are the health concerns. The presentation cited information from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stating that emission of air pollutants is a danger when using commercial two-stroke gas-powered leaf blowers. Those have no emission control and spew numerous pollutants such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter that contains carcinogens. Such pollutants exacerbate respiratory conditions like asthma.
“Up to 12 percent of all U.S. emissions are just from lawn care equipment,” Reinmann said. “And they are concentrated in places we live, play and learn.”
Typical use of leaf blowers in Pleasantville ranges from 15 to 30 minutes per property equivalent to emissions from driving a pick-up truck 2,000 to 4,000 miles, he said.
Village resident Tom Rooney said he liked the idea of limiting hours of operation for using leaf blowers. Landscaping companies, not individual homeowners, are the main problem, he said.
Helen Meurer, chair of the CAC, said the council is also concerned about landscapers. The ordinance would cover everyone, she said.
Mayor Peter Scherer noted that commercial landscapers would view any leaf blower ordinance “as a threat to their livelihoods.”
Superintendent of Recreation & Parks Matt Trainor said the proposed ordinance would be challenging for his department to clear the village’s fields and playgrounds.
“Is it possible? Sure,” Trainor said. “But the hours and the manpower present challenges.”
Trustee Nicole Asquith said she would support legislation.
“But it’s a sensitive topic and there are a lot of different perspectives,” Asquith said. “We’ve been getting a lot of comments on Facebook, particularly about the noise pollution, especially since everybody has been forced to work at home.”
Asquith suggested the board create a public forum to encourage comment and feedback.
There have been 18 other communities throughout Westchester that have approved regulations for leaf blower use, including Greenburgh, White Plains, Croton-on-Hudson and Scarsdale.
The New Castle Town Board has been hosting an ongoing public hearing on its proposed leaf blower legislation, which will continue Sept. 8. It is likely that board will soon approve an ordinance that limits the use of gas-powered blowers on most properties while encouraging the use of electric blowers.
The Pleasantville Village Board plans to discuss its proposed ordinance again at its next meeting on Aug. 24.
“We’d like to hatch a plan for community engagement to talk about it more broadly,” Scherer said.
For more information on the issue, see the slide presentation at https://www.pleasantville-ny.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif1076/f/news/village_of_pleasantville_leaf_blower_slides_2020_to_post.pdf.