by SC Reporter Reese Holiday
Sanibel City Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning gas powered leaf blowers during a council meeting on Tuesday.
The new ordinance (21-004) states that private, governmental or commercial use of gas powered leaf blowers, except during a local state of emergency related to a weather event, will be prohibited on the island effective Jan. 1, 2023. It’s purpose is to regulate noise and air pollution.
During Tuesday’s meeting, however, the council made a small amendment to the ordinance in regard to the island’s golf courses.
Kenneth Kouril, the Sanctuary Golf Club’s general manager, gave a public comment to the council on Tuesday expressing the golf course’s need for gas powered, tow behind leaf blowers.
He said the vast landscape of the golf course has vegetation come onto it often, and the tow behind leaf blowers are essential in order to maintain the course’s 80 acres of green grass. He added that golf courses on the island, and across the country, use this equipment to maintain its property and that an electric blower simply wouldn’t get the job done.
Council agreed to make a change to the ordinance, adding language that exempts tow behind debris blowers operated on golf courses.
Prior to this new ordinance, the city’s ordinance for gas leaf blowers allowed the equipment on the island, but only between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and not at all during most federally recognized holidays.
However, this old ordinance proved to be unsatisfactory for many Sanibel residents as indicated in an April Santiva Chronicle poll.
The results showed that nearly three-fourths of responding residents were unhappy with the leaf blower restrictions, and half wanted gas powered leaf blowers banned altogether.
Their sentiments were continued throughout the year as residents also sent several letters to city council this month indicating their support for a ban of the gas leaf blowers. The main concerns addressed in these letters were the noise and air pollution the leaf blowers cause.
Bob Moore, a Sanibel resident and sustainable landscaping activist, said he is using his recently formed group called the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group to discuss these issues.
Citing the American Green Zone Alliance, an organization committed to sustainable landscaping, Moore said gas leaf blowers can cause more pollution than some crowded streets.
“There’s this data there that showed a single leaf blower produces 53 times more carbon dioxide pollution than an extremely busy city intersection,” Moore said. “They also emit a lot of particulate pollution, which has other related health problems like Asthma.”
To find alternatives for Sanibel, AGZA visited the island in June to host a workshop on the benefits of electric landscaping equipment. Electric-powered leaf blowers, weed whackers and lawn mowers were on display for landscape companies wanting to learn more about sustainable landscaping.
However, AGZA founder Dan Mabe explained during this workshop that it may take years for landscape companies to get their return on investment for the more expensive electric equipment.
But despite this higher cost, Moore explained that battery-powered equipment reduces both noise and air pollution immensely, which has been a main point of concern for many Sanibel residents.
“It’s not like electric leaf blowers don’t make any noise, but they are quieter,” Moore said. “Not only are they lower in decibels, the sound frequency that an electric motor generates is a higher frequency [than gas motors], which doesn’t travel as far.”