Greenwich Approves Summertime Restrictions On Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers
Greenwich Approves Summertime Restrictions On Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

Greenwich Approves Summertime Restrictions On Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers

GREENWICH, CT — The cacophony of gas-powered leaf blowers on Greenwich properties will fade away this summer. On Tuesday, the Representative Town Meeting voted to reinstate a town noise ordinance with provisions that limit the use of the popular landscaping equipment during certain months of the year.

The vote, 128 in favor, 25 opposed with five abstentions, came around 12:30 a.m., in what was a lengthy meeting filled with several motions from a couple of RTM districts.

Greenwich had been without a noise ordinance and under the guidance of the state statutes on noise since early December when the town’s board of health suddenly voted to repeal the measure.

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The board of health had been examining restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers following a request by Quiet Yards Greenwich, a community group that has been looking to solve what it says is a community-wide problem of excessive noise and pollution from the blowers.

The board felt it was best to have the RTM craft a noise ordinance while also tackling the issue of gas-powered leaf blowers.

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On Tuesday night, the RTM approved essentially the same noise ordinance that had been in place in Greenwich since 1984, with an added amendment from Greenwich Health & Human Services on gas-powered leaf blower usage in the summer.

According to the noise ordinance, which took effect at the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, commercial use of gas-powered leaf blowers on premises in residential zones is prohibited on Sundays.

Notably, the use of such leaf blowers on premises in residential zones is prohibited from 6 p.m. the Friday before Memorial Day through Sept. 30, inclusive, except for properties of 2-plus acres where the prohibition ends the day after Labor Day.

There will be no penalties or punishment for violations this summer to allow time for education on the new language for residents and landscapers.

Penalties will kick in beginning in 2025. The ordinance notes that a first offense comes with a warning and education on the ordinance provisions; a second offense is a $100 fine; and each subsequent offense is a $249 fine.

The RTM’s vote came 30 years after the first effort to pass summertime restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers, and there have been some other efforts since.

In a statement to Patch early Wednesday morning, Quiet Yards Greenwich expressed joy that their advocacy had finally paid dividends.

“Greenwich residents can breathe a huge sigh of relief,” said Elizabeth Dempsey, one of the founders of Quiet Yards Greenwich. “At last, instead of listening to ear-piercing noise and inhaling toxic fumes, for a few months out of the year, residents can enjoy some fresh air and the sounds of nature in their own backyards. We thank the residents of Greenwich for their constant support and the RTM for reaching across the aisle to improve the quality of life for all in our town.”

Dempsey noted that for most residents, the vote was about noise and using one’s property in peace. For others, they were concerned about potential health hazards and pollution from the landscaping equipment.

“It is now estimated that gas leaf blowers in Fairfield county, in one year, produce as much fine particulate matter as 1.1 million cars each driving more than 10,500 miles,” Dempsey noted.

The road to approval Tuesday night was symbolic of the last 30 years, as both were long and winding. The meeting almost served as a crash course in the parliamentary process.

A motion was put forward by the RTM Legislative & Rules Committee that called for noise ordinance and leaf blower language to be referred to a special committee that would report back to the RTM in March.

Proponents said the matter was too complicated to take up in one night and needed to be studied more closely.

“I think there’s a lot of moving parts here. I think it’s a complicated issue,” noted RTM member Michael Goldstein. “This has to be fair to the landscapers. I think there are obviously issues with the batteries [for electric blowers], there are issues with charging them, there’s the possibility these landscapers will put electric generators on their trucks to charge the batteries and they’ll create their own noise. I think this should be referred, I think it shoud be worked out in a way that’s fair to all people.”

Opponents said it was time to stop kicking the can down the road and that there have been plenty of meetings, debates and information shared already on the topic.

“Don’t underestimate this body and this process by arguing this is too complicated for us to handle,” said RTM member Lindy Lilien. “We can make this happen. I believe more time is not going to bring the body itself any closer to agreement. It just kicks us down the road and frustrates our constituents.”

The motion to refer failed by a vote of 88 in favor, 124 opposed with an abstention.

After that vote, Health & Human Services put forth their amendment that added language about prohibiting leaf blowers in summer months to the proposed noise ordinance. That passed 135 in favor, 64 opposed with six abstentions.

There were then several motions from District 11 and District 10, which notably tried to exempt residents on large properties from the summertime prohibition (vote: 29-135-4) and establish a sunset clause (vote: 61-111-4) for the leaf-blower language.

But all motions were soundly rejected.

The RTM waived its second-read rule by a two-thirds majority to vote on the amended noise ordinance Tuesday night.

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