by SC Staff Writer Jan Holly/SC photo by Associate Publisher, Photographer Chuck Larsen
City Council moved to restrict hours of operation for gas-powered leaf blowers at its Dec. 3 meeting at City Hall. The new time restriction, applying only to commercial leaf blower activity, will be 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and prohibited on Sundays. The proposal also prohibits operation of the blowers during the following federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Councilman Jason Maughan presented the proposal with the statement that running leaf blowers “seven days a week around the clock is an unacceptable infringement on the quality of life for islanders.” Maughan added that banning gas-powered blowers outright “is a burden on the industry” and that the restriction “should not apply to private citizens.”
Councilwoman Holly Smith voiced her support for the measure as “a step in the right direction. It’s important to move this forward.”
Councilman Richard Johnson called the measure “an opportunity for Homeowners’ Associations to make some decisions about leaf blowers, because it has a neighborhood impact. As the industry matures more, we may be addressing this issue again in the future,” he said.
During public comment, landscape business owner Mike Rembrandt objected to the time restriction. “We start our blowers at 8 a.m. In 30 years, we have had no complaints,” he said. “This restriction is a burden on everyone who does this kind of work. We will lose hours of productivity, which will take a bite into our already low profit margin,” he added. Rembrandt also objected to prohibiting operation of blowers on Veterans’ Day and Labor Day.
Speaking on behalf of the Committee of the Islands, island resident Maryann Bell argued that the measure fails to address air quality. “These engines burn gas and oil generating their own source of fine particulate matter that is inhaled by the operator and those nearby,” she said. “We are hopeful that Council would consider further restrictions on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers.
“Some condos associations have opted for the use of electric-powered leaf blowers and report excellent results,” Bell added. “We encourage Council to reconsider this issue and help protect Sanibel’s air quality.”
Council unanimously approved the motion.