To consider a proposal that’s been a decade in the making, the Greenburgh Town Board held a public hearing on March 10 to gauge public sentiment on a draft proposal from the Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) to limit the use of gas- and electric-powered leaf blowers, banning them outright for 7.5 months out of the year.
The draft proposal would only allow gasoline-powered and electric leaf blowers to be used from March 1 to May 15 and Oct. 15 to Dec. 15. During those time periods blowers would only be allowed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. All blowers, including electric ones, would be banned outside the prescribed time frame.
Currently, the town’s law bans blowers in excess of 55 dBA for five months out of the year. The CAC’s new draft resolution does not include a noise excess clause, which is thought to help with enforcement efforts. If passed, the resolution would amend the town’s noise law set out in chapter 380.
“Over the years many residents have emailed or called us complaining about noise and the sounds of leaf blowers,” said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. “That was escalated during the pandemic when a lot of people were working from their home. So, we asked the Conservation Advisory Council to review the topic and come up with a proposed law.”
According to Theresa Tori, the chairperson of the CAC, the group looked at the manufacturers’ specifications for more than 300 gas and electric blowers and found that only five electric leaf blowers were below the town’s noise ordinance.
“While it may have been [the] case that at one point in time electric blowers were less powerful and less noisy than gas blowers, that is no longer the case,” said Tori. “Todays electric blowers’ hurricane force winds and decibel levels strewn airborne particulates, destroy soils and create noise pollution.”
Though the new law limits homeowner’s blower usage, the proposed resolution includes exceptions for debris cleanup resulting from authorized tree removals; for use within 2 feet of outdoor equipment, such as air conditioning compressors, generators and other outdoor machinery and related piping and/or wiring exposed above ground; and for the Department of Public Works and the Department of Parks & Recreation for public safety activities.
Tori said the group considered but did not recommend other exceptions for homeowners since “the harms caused by blowers occur regardless of whose hand the blower is operated from.”
During a work session in December, town councilmembers Francis Sheehan and Gina Jackson both expressed uneasiness with imposing regulations on the general public that the town wasn’t willing to impose on itself. Sheehan had also previously shared a concern about leaving golf courses and cemeteries out of the exceptions clause, which often use multiple leaf blowers to clear leaves from their land. In November, he speculated that passage of the blower resolution could invite potential litigation.
During the public hearing on March 10, former Edgemont Community Council President Bob Bernstein said that it seemed hypocritical to exempt the town from the ban.
“If you’re property abuts any of the town’s recreational areas or any other town facilities, you will be exposed to the blowers all year round,” said Bernstein. “All of the health dangers … will be visited upon every homeowner whose land abuts this property.”
Bernstein complimented the CAC for collecting the data to justify the ban, but criticized the group for not showing the impact the ban would have on the town.
“What would the impact be if there were no … blowers used during the summer months? Have they measured that? What would the impact on properties be? Is it miniscule? Is it a lot? How do you measure that? Have they measured that? If you don’t know what it is, how can you ban it and say you’re doing it in good faith?” asked Bernstein. “Otherwise, it looks like the dates you’ve chosen are completely arbitrary.”
Bernstein requested the town allow for the ECC to discuss the leaf blower matter at its next monthly meeting.
Stephanie Crowe, manager of the Hartsdale Public Parking District, asked the board and the CAC to include the parking district among the exceptions for the leaf blower ban. Although the district’s six garages are privately owned, the lots function as municipal parking, she said, and leaf blowers were essential for public safety and preserving the properties.
Peter Brown, a Greenburgh homeowner, said he was completely against an outright ban but was willing to meet in the middle to have a reasonable law. He referenced the village of Irvington’s old leaf blower law as an example, which only allowed blowers between March 15 to June 1 and Sept. 15 through Dec. 15. The law required that no more than two handheld or backpack leaf blowers be used at a time unless the property was more than an acre. All blowers had to meet EPA exhaust standards and couldn’t exceed 64 dBA.
Between June 2 and Sept. 14, and Dec. 16 through March 14, no gas-powered leaf blowers were allowed except for property owners, who could use one gas-powered leaf blower once a week for no more than 30 minutes.
The village of Irvington recently voted to totally ban gas-powered leaf blowers.
“For me personally as a homeowner I just want to be able to blow clippings off my driveway and off my hardscapes and finish up my job and be done,” said Brown.
Kathleen Evers, a new resident of Edgemont, said she was “really shocked” that the constant dribble of noise coming from leaf blowers was making it difficult for her to use her home office. She said she felt the amendment to the law didn’t do enough to resolve the noise issues.
“The number of days that the blowers can be used should be reduced. The spring season should not start until April 1,” she said. “I also believe that the fall season could be shortened … and I would like to suggest … to have one day on the weekend that would be free of noise.”
If the resolution is adopted, Tori said it would include a sunset clause that would allow town officials to reevaluate the law in two years’ time. The proposed resolution will be revisited during the April 14 board meeting.