Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers Get Postponed by Council

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes | photo by SC Photographer Chuck Larsen

Sanibel City Council postponed its discussion on regulating gas-powered leaf blowers in the June meeting. Staff delivered two comprehensive reports about how municipalities elsewhere have regulated gas-powered leaf blowers and on public education materials that council members wanted more time to digest the copious amount of information.

However, council indicated they have given a lot of thought on the matter since it was introduced in March, and not all of them were convinced a ban would be the best approach. Leaf blowers were viewed by some council members as just a noise issue and others questioned the practicality of battery-powered leaf blowers in commercial landscaping.

Councilman Richard Johnson raised the question of whether to include other gas-powered landscaping equipment. There were also brief discussions on homeowner’s associations enforcing regulations and citizen’s volunteering to use an alternative leaf blower. Committee of the Islands Environmental Committee Chair Barbara Joy Cooley reminded council of the air and noise pollution produced by gas-powered leaf blowers.

Operating the best-selling commercial fuel-powered leaf blower for an hour emits air pollutants comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles,” she said, quoting a study by the California Air Resources Board. Cooley also stated that current city code allows leaf blowers and other lawn equipment to be operated seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

City staff researched 15 municipalities with a ban or restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers. Four of them, including Village of Key Biscayne, enacted a ban and the others use restrictions on hours of allowed usage, maximum noise level and required noise mitigation methods. All of the researched municipalities determined violations fell to the operator of the leaf blower instead of the property owner.

The staff’s report identified four key elements council should consider when drafting any regulations: the degree or extent of regulation; inclusion of a grace period before enforcement; the assignment of liability for violations; and a penalty schedule for violations.

The topic is expected to be on the council agenda in July, along with a status report on the Donax Rehabilitation Project and further discussion about reducing or eliminating plastic bags.

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