by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
A proposed ordinance regulating the commercial use of gas-powered leaf blowers was moved to a first reading in November by City Council on Wednesday, but it may be a small step towards a complete ban that could go beyond the leaf blower.
Under the proposed ordinance, gas-powered leaf blowers would be permitted for commercial use from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Councilman Jason Maughan, who worked on drafting the ordinance, was alarmed to learn the city did not have regulations on commercial use of leaf blowers and said the appropriate action is to “curtail the use between what are socially acceptable hours to the community.”
Committee of the Islands Environmental Committee Chair Barbara Joy Cooley has been advocating on behalf of many concerned citizens for a complete ban on gas-powered leaf blowers based on noise and air pollution issues caused by these lawn-care tools. She cited a study done two years ago by the California Air Resources Board that showed the best-selling commercial gas-powered leaf blower operated for one hour emits air pollutants comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry 1,100 miles.
“This ordinance is a baby step by regulating the times, but does not do anything about air pollution,” said Cooley.
She also pointed to the successful enactment of a leaf blower ordinance in the Village of Key Biscanye, a town on a barrier island across the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami. It’s one of 107 communities with different levels of leaf blower restrictions as of 2017, according to the Quiet Communities Organization. Cooley called upon the council to step up to the challenge. “You are excellent environmental leaders,” she said. “….this is an air quality and pollution problem we can do something about.”
Councilman Richard Johnson, who was in full support of regulating the hours of operation, questioned whether the measure went far enough. “Our constituents are seeking an outright ban,” he said. “This ordinance is a short-term solution, maybe we should look at how to craft a long-term solution.”
Sanibel resident Mike Miller encouraged council to consider a ban with a transition or grace period. “I think it would be an effective compromise between those constituents that want relief from the noise and air pollution and also reflecting concerns of those who feel the effectiveness of the technology is not where it should be,” he said. “Battery technology is advancing significantly and proof of that is in the e-bike…Sanibel needs to get ahead of the curve.”
Johnson and Sanibel resident Mary Ann Bell further raised the point of leaf blowers not being the only contributing factor to noise and air pollution. Bell agreed with having a full ban on leaf blowers and said she believes air quality is every bit as important as water quality, but noise pollution is part of the problem.
“The thing before us today is a noise regulation and I’m not prepared to leave that off the table in order to attempt to grab more,” said Maughan. “I would like to deal with that today and I’m quite happy to listen to anybody else who wants to work on the issue or expand it out into a ban, but my immediate issue is these need to be regulated.”