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Pleasantville Proposes Seasonal Ban on Gas Leaf Blowers

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The Village of Pleasantville is pressing forward with discussions of a proposed ordinance that would limit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers within the community.

Village Trustee Nicole Asquith, who has spearheaded the initiative, spoke about the legislation at last week’s board meeting. It would outlaw use of the gas-powered machines from May 15 to Oct. 1, but the ban would be lifted for the spring and fall clean-ups when all types of leaf blowers would be permitted. Electric leaf blowers would be allowed throughout the year.

“Transitioning from gas-powered landscaping equipment is something that is happening broadly, not just in Westchester but in New York State and across the country,” Asquith said. “The (proposed) ordinance represents a reasonable compromise, a middle ground between those who want to ban leaf blowers altogether and those who don’t want us to legislate them at all.”

Municipalities throughout Westchester have adopted various regulations in recent years, some with the hope of eventually phasing out all gas blowers.

Asquith said the proposed ordinance reflected the views expressed by 633 area residents, including 593 village residents, who responded to a survey last June. Among the respondents, 158 own electric leaf blowers and 123 own gas-powered mowers. A majority favors curtailing the air and noise pollution produced by gas-powered leaf blowers.

“There are a number of residents who feel very strongly about this, including some who threatened to move out of Pleasantville if we don’t do something,” Asquith said.

The proposed ordinance’s main goal is to encourage residents to gradually switch from gas-powered to electric blowers, which Asquith said was in keeping with the village’s 2018 Climate Smart Communities Pledge.

All residents and landscapers operating within the village would be subject to the ordinance. The village does not have jurisdiction over the Pleasantville School District, but Asquith said she spoke to the district’s Director of Facilities, Steve Chamberlain, who said they would be willing to comply with the law.

However, the Pleasantville Country Club grounds manager told Asquith the club is not ready to transition to electric landscaping equipment.

“It’s a conversation that is ongoing,” said Asquith. “We would like to offer some kind of plan that would encourage them to gradually phase out their use of gas-powered leaf blowers in the summer months.”

The village’s public information campaign focuses on the benefits of electric equipment, which supporters say lasts longer, has fewer health risks, is quieter, weighs less and will lower expenses in the long term.

Similar to the village’s noise ordinance, enforcement during normal business hours would fall to the Pleasantville Building Department. At other times, it would be the police department’s responsibility to enforce.

“The intention is not to be draconian, the intention is, hopefully, to encourage people to make this transition,” Asquith explained. “But if the ordinance is passed this spring, we’ve been discussing the idea of leniency in terms of enforcement to allow people to get used to the idea.”

The Pleasantville Parks & Recreation Department is already transitioning from gas-powered landscaping equipment with the recent purchase of an electric ride-on mower, according to Asquith. Department members have also attended workshops on sustainable landscaping and are planning to meet with Sustainable Westchester to work on a long-term plan to shift from gas-powered equipment.

Pleasantville was recently awarded a $5,000 grant by the New York State Energy and Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to help fund efforts to promote cleaner and more sustainable landscaping practices. The grant will be managed by the village’s Climate Smart Pleasantville task force. Plans for the funds include purchasing electric landscaping equipment for Parks & Recreation. Placement of a battery charging station for the department’s trucks is also being considered.

Climate Smart Pleasantville would also use the funds to initiate a rebate program, which is currently being formulated and may start as early as this spring. Separate from the proposed legislation, it would encourage residents to trade in their gas leaf blowers or lawnmowers and purchase electric equipment.

Under consideration is a rebate of $75 when a gas-powered leaf blower is traded in and a $125 rebate when trading in a gas lawnmower. There would also be a $100 rebate to purchase an electric lawn mower with no trade-in. Maximum rebates would be up to 50 percent of the purchase price of new electric equipment.

Asquith said she met with Department of Public Works Superintendent Jeff Econom, who indicated the village’s recycling center is already equipped to accept the gas-powered machines and turn them into scrap metal for sale. Used lawn equipment would have to be drained of oil and gas and dropped off at the center.

The village plans to host a forum for local landscapers about transitioning from gas-powered to electric equipment and provide information on professional-grade electric equipment.

A public hearing on the leaf blower ordinance is tentatively scheduled for Apr. 25.

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